Wednesday 22 March 2023
  • :
  • :

John Bell: Achieve creative leadership by doing less better

Season 2 of Stories of Creative Leadership continues with John Bell, best-selling author and retired CEO and management consultant.

John Bell, Tony Vengrove, intrepidNOWSome highlights from the conversation:

Starting with your new book, Do Less Better: The power of strategic sacrifice in a complex world, we noticed the book is dedicated “to those who believe that big ideas trump big budgets.” Then, near the end of the book, you make the statement, “Creativity is the last great bargain in business.” Tell us how you became to be such an advocate for ideas and creative thinking.

How did you hone your creative leadership skills? What behaviors should leaders do more of and what should they stop doing in order to invite more creative thinking and build that innovative culture everyone claims to want?

We often talk about the strain between creativity and logic in a corporate setting. Logic can sometimes be the worst mindset to bring into an innovation meeting—especially during “the fuzzy front-end.” As a former CEO, how did you learn to judge ideas and give feedback? How did you know when a spark deserved the chance to be fanned into a flame?

In your book you reference The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout; reminding your readers that they devoted an entire chapter to “urging brand marketers to avoid gratuitous line extensions.” As an executive leader, how did you manage the tension between the more predictable “gratuitous” innovations versus chasing the bolder, disruptive opportunities? When a company needs volume to hit earnings, many choose to “take the pipeline and run.”

Another line from your book is, “Innovation’s Promised Land is miles from the comfort zone.” That implies leaders must be comfortable leading into unchartered territory. Looking back on what you’ve learned throughout your career, what’s your pep talk to those currently seeking the Promised Land?

How “doing less better” brings agility, foresight, adaptability, and resilience.

How “doing less better” enables you to compete with larger organizations with bigger budgets.

One way to achieve this is to be a specialist company verses a generalist company.

“Become an idea company. And those who come up with the ideas will see the promised land!”

“Creativity without strategy is like spitting in the wind.”

The importance (and courage required) to telling people that their idea isn’t good, that you know they can do better. Nine times out of ten this results in better work!

“You don’t always have to make a decision…”

Mr. Bell then tackles the 7 C’s Lightening Round. We serve up each of the 7 C’s of Creative Leadership and ask John to provide a short, pithy soundbite as to why they’re important for fostering creative thinking and innovation: Communication, Curiosity, Creativity, Connecting, Culture, Change, Courage

Miles Finch, Tony Vengrove, intrepidNOW

John Bell, Tony Vengrove, intrepidNOWJohn Bell is the author of Do Less Better: The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World.

A retired consumer packaged goods CEO and global strategy consultant to some of the world’s most respected blue-chip organizations, his musings on strategy, leadership, and branding have appeared in several journals including Fortune and Forbes.

John has served as a director of several private, public, and not-for-profit organizations.

You can read John’s blog here. You can learn more about the book here.

And, you can connect with John Bell on Twitter too!

Do Less Better: The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World


1. See the complete roster of guests for Season 2 – The Stories of Creative Leadership!

2. CLICK HERE to sign-up to intrepidBUSINESS – and not miss a single episode!

Tony Vengrove, IntrepidNOW, creative leadership, innovationAbout Tony Vengrove, the Co-Host!

Tony Vengrove founded Miles Finch Innovation with the goal of helping companies shatter the cultural barriers that interfere with corporate innovation. He’s an innovation omnivore with a passion for fostering creative thinking in organizations.

Drawing upon more that twenty years of experience in global ad agencies like Grey, Saatchi & Saatchi, and F500 roles in brand marketing, business development, and corporate innovation, Tony knows first-hand what it takes to lead innovation and commercialize ideas.

Connect here

Co-founder of the intrepidNOW Media Network, Todd Schnick is a media + business strategist and talk show host + producer. He is a former marketing strategist, national political operative, and lobbyist. Todd has published five books, writes a business + lifestyle column, is a distance runner, and lives in Chicago with his wife Stephanie + family.