Creativity - The Secret Sauce in the C-Suite

by Julian Ryder, Founder + Chief Creative Officer

Consider what might be possible if a Chief Creative Officer (CCO) occupied the C-suite of all organizations. Imagine having a CCO of the Los Angeles Police Department, Ralph’s Grocery Stores, The Department of Homeland Security or American Airlines. Bringing creativity into non-creative business cultures is a game changer and executive leaders should be forewarned, it is only a matter of time before creativity and creative leadership will be part of your C-suite.


The design of old school corporate culture dictates the C-suite shall be located in the most prime real estate in the office. Like gated communities the residents are isolated away from the action. It’s quiet, like a library, it’s where important work gets done. A first time visitor might equate the experience to being sent to the principal’s office or taking a behind the scenes tour where you’re told not to touch anything and to stay behind the ropes. By design the C-suite is intimidating and meant to evoke awe and reverence.

The “C” stands for Chief, a leader of people or clan. A Chief is wise, trusted and experienced. The most ubiquitous Chiefs in the C-suite fall into three categories, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The list goes on to include many other Chiefs whose presence is determined based on what business the organization is in. Over the last two decades the C-suite has grown in size fueled by new technology, new business models and economic opportunity. One need only look at the ever increasing list of specialty Chief positions that were non-existent 10-years ago; Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer (CAIO), Chief Web Officer (CWO), Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) and so on.

One role that falls into the specialty Chief category is Chief Creative Officer (CCO). You find them in advertising agencies, technology firms, big brand companies and anywhere businesses traffic in creativity and innovation. These businesses understand the importance of creative leadership at the highest level and the consequences of being without it. Historically CCO’s have been responsible for overseeing the brand image of a company, this includes the overall look and feel of the marketing and media materials as well as the strategic positioning of the brand. Not surprising, the CCO's job description is rapidly changing as companies are discovering a slew of additional capabilities their CCO's are able to provide.

Organizations who lack creative leadership should consider this; A Chief Creative Officer sitting in the C-suite has a 30,000-foot view of the organization, a perspective only available in the C-suite. From this vantage point the CCO gets exposed to organizational issues and challenges others may be struggling to resolve. CCO’s are trained to stand outside the traditional viewing plane, be it for new idea generation or bringing new thinking and creative insight to unresolved issues. That same thinking is equally applicable to finance, planning, strategy and myriad other areas of importance. Research has shown that companies who embrace creativity and creative leadership perform at a higher level, are more productive and have happier employees. A CCO is the secret sauce in the C-suite and a disruptor of old school corporate structure. Letting go of the past is challenging. Embracing the new is liberating.