Insight without borders: Interview with Ginger Grant PhD

Ginger Grant PhD, is the Managing Partner of Creativity in Business Canada, a consultancy that specializes in creativity and innovation with both individuals and organizations.

Part of the teacher/trainer group from Stanford’s GSB “Creativity in Business” program, she is the only Canadian on the team.

Creativity in Business is a philosophy whose focus is the passion of people and the ability to deliver world-class performance. Ginger is also a highly respected speaker, writer and academic. The author of
Finding Your Creative Core (2009) and ReVisioning the Way We Work (2005), she can be found on twitter or contacted through her website:

Question 1) Describe your area of expertise: What is it, how did you get into it, and why do you keep doing it?

Ginger Grant: My passion is story and studying mythological and memetic systems. Prior to shifting my focus, I specialized in due diligence and competitive intelligence in mergers and acquisitions for several stock exchanges in Canada, the US and Europe. My mid-life crisis took me back to school where I did graduate work at a school founded by Joseph Campbell,
Pacifica Graduate Institute.

After completing my PhD in mythology and depth psychology, I then completed post-doctoral studies at the Stanford Business School in the Creativity in Business program. I have written extensively on Campbell’s Heroic Journey model, using it as a tool to promote psychological change. My work is my passion: I love what I do every day and isn’t that a job description that many of us desire?

Question 2) What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in the last year of business?
Ginger Grant: Our current economic woes stem from a variety of complex issues, one of which is the focus on short-term profitability in North America. Our business schools lean towards models that view long-term planning to be a five year process.

In our dealing with companies in Europe and the Asia-Pacific, long-term can be as much as 100 years, the lifespan of four or more CEO’s. Such an emphasis keeps your strategic intent towards sustainability for the organization. Our businesses need to not only think more creatively but also more sustainably with regards to human capital retention.

Nick Black: Interesting perspective. This idea has also been shared by
Prof. Geert Hofstede who dedicated his career to studying dimensions of culture. He found that US culture was highly short-term orientated, verses cultures in Asia, whose “time perspective was more about persevering and overcoming obstacles with time.”

Question 3) What major trend(s) do you see emerging in Canadian business?

Ginger Grant: Canada has a built-in competitive advantage, as our country is founded in multiculturalism. You are encouraged to be both Canadian AND country of origin. This richness in diversity will continue and can provide a foundation for innovative practices. Creativity comes from diversity in thinking.

A challenge that is upon us is retaining intellectual capital and knowledge transfer in organizations. In most companies, over 30% of the workforce will soon be eligible for retirement and in some cases, the numbers are much higher. We need to re-vision retirement (which is the topic of my next book!) in order to retain valuable human capital.

Innovative organizations are also focusing on the executive development of women in their workforce, who have been under-represented in the past at a senior level. Many organizations are also creating their own university systems, as our business schools do not support innovative thinking.

Question 4) What major trend(s) do you see emerging amongst Canadian consumers?
Ginger Grant: Canadian consumers are becoming more discerning and are demanding not only an excellent product or service but also an excellent experience of the product or service. That is difficult for many organizations as experience is an emotional construct. Any organization that wishes to excel in the marketplace needs to focus on its delivery experience. Price matters yes, but experience matters more.

With the demographic shortages in the workforce, employees are also becoming consumers and will stay with an organization that provides an excellent working experience. I see no difference between external and internal marketing anymore – delivery on the brand promise is mandatory.

Without an emotional link to the product or service, lowest price will prevail. Without an emotional link to the organization, employees will move at will and frequently to wherever they can obtain the best working conditions. Consumers, regardless of what type of stakeholder they may be, are now driving your brand.

Question 5) Insight, strategy or innovation – Which is most important, and what role does it play in Canadian business?

Ginger Grant: What a question! In my view, insight matters most as it drives strategy and therefore innovation. North America is in love with quantification – numbers drive strategy. Europe and the Asia-Pacific start with qualitative means – the insight required to make decisions. If you don’t know where you are going and why you are going there, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at the problem.

Insight first always. Then measure your results! In order to increase our competitive advantage, we need to quit playing with numbers (I usually phrase that much more rudely) and move towards the vision and values that drive our decision-making.

Question 6) Pick a successful Canadian product, service or brand. Why did you pick it, and what can we learn from its success?

Ginger Grant: One of my favourite examples is Cirque de Soleil. Canada is considered a conservative country but every so often, we surprise the world and deliver something incredible. Cirque de Soleil understands the value of experience, the emotional link to a brand promise.
They never fail to delight. They never fail to deliver. They live their brand – each performer – every day. They have re-visioned the entire concept of a circus while at the same time, paying attention to global issues and concerns such as treatment of animals, etc.

Their attention to detail is legendary but here is a little known example. The children of the performers travel with the troupe. In each new location, their school is built yet again, providing the children with a consistent “experience” in their education. Same room, same walls, same desks. When the troupe moves on, so does the school.

That is consistency in experience and provides an emotional anchor for those children regardless of location world-wide. Do you think that such attention to the children of their employees contributes to the delivery of world-class performance? You bet!

Question 7) If you had one piece of advice for a foreign business or brand attempting to enter the Canadian marketplace, what would it be?

Ginger Grant: Don’t underestimate the intelligence of the Canadian public. We tend to be a conservative nation and keep a low profile. Deliver on your brand promise and you will be rewarded. Once you have captured our hearts, our passion and commitment are legendary.