The 14 Most Creative CEOs

DATE: September 28, 2012

Which chief executives are willing to take risks to solve problems? Which ones are willing to defy conventional wisdom? In short, which CEOs are the most creative?

After reviewing Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, we pulled out 14 chief executive officers who know what it takes to rise above the noise of their competitors.

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Ron Johnson, CEO of JCPenney

Ron Johnson After becoming a creative all-star at Apple, Ron Johnson took over JCPenney with the goal to transform it back to its former glory. He has shaken up the marketing and pricing, but his main goal is changing the way his employees think:

“Our number-one competitor is ourselves. It’s our ability to change. And the way you unlock potential is to find a new way to compete, ideally in a way that’s never been done before, so it’s seen as new.”

Read more at Fast Company

Maelle Gavet, CEO of Ozon Holdings

Maelle Gavet Maelle Gavet runs an e-commerce site that is quickly on its way to becoming the Amazon of Russia. To build trust between customers and the company, every person who buys from the site gets a call from Ozon to confirm and thank them for the purchase.

Gavet also built a network of 2,000 pickup location, giving customers the ability to take a look at their deliveries before even paying. Gavet’s strategy has raked in the money, too, bringing a revenue jump of 84% ($303 million in 2011).

Read more at Fast Company

Jimmy Smith, CEO of Amusement Park Entertainment

Jimmy SmithImage: Limite Jimmy Smith runs his ad firm like none other. His unique approach includes creating branded content (yes, including action figures) and then co-owning a majority of what is created by his firm.

He even has a sign on his front door that says “No Assholes Allowed” which seems to help his firm hire only those who won’t get in the way of his creative approach.

“At the end of the day, it’s the ideas, the ideas, the ideas. I want every waking moment to be about keeping it fun, keeping it positive, so we can create something magical.”

Read more at Fast Company

Deborah Borda, CEO of Los Angeles Philharmonic

Deborah Borda Meet Deborah Borda, the woman who helped get the “L.A. Phil” on iTunes and in movie theaters, amplifying the number of ears that hear its music. She had two inspirational ideas:

The first was providing free musical training for underprivileged kids, making an immeasurable social impact on the community (didn’t hurt the L.A. Philharmonic’s future donations, either).

The second was expanding the L.A. Phil’s repertoire to include jazz, American folk music and other types of music once absent from its brand. As a result, their music has been able to reach entirely new sets of audiences.

Read more at Fast Company

Lourenco Bustani, CEO of Mandalah

Lourenco Bustani
Image: Tavola
Here is one Brazilian advertiser who is shaking up the market.  His secret? “Find the sweet spot between purpose and profit.” Here’s an example:

Nike wanted to reach out to Brazilians during the World Cup, but Bustani knew Brazilians were worried about being abandoned once it was over. Bustani came up with a solution: Have Nike demonstrate its dedication to the locals and integrate “urban tribes” into these projects who might be getting left behind by the economy.

With the help of Mandalah, skateboard ramps were built, surf schools and tournaments were sponsored, and eight soccer fields were operated to mentor kids, providing the foundation for a lasting impact for Nike’s brand.

Read more at Fast Company

Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Entertainment

Thomas TullImage: What makes Thomas Tull so creative? To put it simply, he’s a total nerd.

To movie-maker Tull, passing fanboys’ tests of authenticity is what really drives success. He knows because he himself is the ultimate fanboy. He knows that if he can make movies as realistic as possible, down to the most ridiculous details, he can make others believe in the worlds of Legendary Entertainment.

“How will it be powered? How big is its stride? You just keep going deeper and deeper. You consult experts. Today’s audiences are so sophisticated and research-savvy; you just want to take the time and attention and care to create something real and tangible.”

Read more at Fast Company

Rachael Chong, Catchafire

Rachel ChongyImage: Steve Wilson How do you get people addicted to volunteering? Just ask Rachael Chong. She runs Catchafire, a site that matches about 2,500 not-for-profits with 10,000 “pro bono professionals.”

“If you’re a banker or designer and your volunteer experience involves painting a house instead of applying your talents, you probably don’t feel your time was well spent,” says Chong.

Those not-for-profits pay Chong’s Catchfire a fee for these volunteer matches. In return the not-for-profit receives not just a volunteer, but a volunteer who will come back again and again.

Read more at Fast Company

Cyrus Massoumi, CEO of ZocDoc

Cyrus Massoumi Cyrus Massoumi is the man who knows how to break into a highly skeptical industry. After getting kicked out of a few offices, he was able to sign up 10 dentists for ZocDoc, a site for booking appointments with doctors online.Soon after, word spread and more doctors started signing up.

Once his business was up and running, he learned how to speak the startup language and won over the VCs by dressing and acting like an entrepreneur (he bought a pair of jeans).

ZocDoc now has more than $95 million in funding and 1 million users per month, and it isn’t even available nationwide until 2013… so yes, people seem to like it.

Read more at Fast Company

Ron J. Williams, CEO of Knodes

Ron J. Williams Ron Williams uses an algorithm (yes, one) to connect people. He created Knodes, a tool for helping you find others in your social network who will most care about whatever video or article you are posting.

“There are two fundamental axes that govern why people open anything online: relevancy to what you do and engagement in your life…With thousands of contacts on social sites, we need personal outreach if we want to get anything done.”

Read more at Fast Company

Shara Senderoff, CEO of Intern Sushi

Shara Senderoff Need a good intern? So do lots of companies. This is where Shara Senderoff’s Intern Sushi comes in.

She came up with this site to help prospective interns put their best foot forward during interviews. This video-resume site is now used for recruiting by several companies, including Lionsgate and Warner Music Group.

“The interns who are able to convey not only their talents but also their values and goals are the ones hiring managers have connected to.”

Read more at Fast Company

Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat

Tony Haile Tony Haile created an analytics tool that helps publishers track the engagement/traffic of their sites and turns real-time data into graphs and charts that constantly update. It’s called Chartbeat.

Chartbeat was born from culture of visualization. Haile and his employees can write on any surface in the office, including pillars that double as chalkboards.

“You can never have too much information as long as it’s nice to look at.”

Read more at Fast Company

Lee Linden, CEO of Karma

Lee LindenImage: CrunchBase Lee Linden created an app called Karma that tracks the birthdays and other life milestones of the people you care about, and then send presents to those people.

This entrepreneur recognized that social media provided the opportunity to bring people closer to friends and family, especially if they lived miles away. The distant disconnection during special days was a problem Linden had encountered in his own life.

“We know we’re not the only ones who live far from friends and family. The key is that when you have a problem yourself and you’re looking for a solution, that’s a good place to start.”

Read more at Fast Company

Ren Ng, CEO of Lytro

Ren Ng Is it possible to focus a photograph after the picture is taken? This question drove Ren Ng to write a groundbreaking, 187-page dissertation exploring the idea that a camera sensor captured all light traveling in every direction, which then allowed pictures to be refocused after being taken.

Ng turned this theory into a business. Lytro’s spyglasslike camera now ensures photographers can take pictures with any lens, from any depth, and with only one click.

Read more at Fast Company

Aslaug Magnusdottir, CEO of Moda Operandi

Aslaug MagnusdottirImage: Stewart Shining Why should designers give up all the control to the retailers? Aslaug Magnusdottir created a site that lets shoppers pre-order clothing six months before they hit the stores, straight from the runway shows.

“No one thought anyone would purchase luxury items online, but we help our customers feel comfortable by offering style advice through editorial content and personal stylists.”

Turns out it work quite well: 250 designers now do business with Moda Operandi, where a customer’s average purchase is $1,400.

Read more at Fast Company