How Local Leaders Inspire Creativity and Outside-the-Box Thinking In Their Teams

Two leaders of creative local companies share how they cultivate creativity in the workplace.

Dan Dagg. Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

How much does creativity drive a business’ success? According to a 2014 study conducted by Adobe and Forrester Consulting, 82 per cent of companies believe there’s a strong correlation between creativity and business results. For many businesses, regardless of the industry, creativity is a key differentiator and integral to a business’ success.

So how can you help foster a creative office environment? We asked two local business leaders, Dan Dagg of Hot House Marketing and Brianna Wettlaufer of Stocksy United, to share how they encourage creative thinking, tackle new projects in innovative ways, and deliver unique results.


Dan Dagg

President of Hot House Marketing

How do you get your team’s creative juices flowing so they’re ready to tackle a new idea or project?

Creativity doesn’t come from loose random thinking, but rather the opposite. We put as many ideas down [on a white board] as possible and have a “no bad ideas” rule. Legendary ad man Keith Reinhard, co-founder of DDB said, “If you want to do great work, you better be prepared to look foolish.” Great ideas often do look foolish, and with a tweak, they are brilliant.


How do you make sure that everyone’s creative idea is shared and heard?

I will often ask the shyest or quietest in the room what they think, and then make sure I honour and respect their thought.


Do you encourage team-building activities to enhance creativity and productivity?

Teams are built through adversity. When we have to solve big campaign challenges together in short time, we bond as one. We strip out ego and focus on getting a great product out the door.

We also have “fun Friday” every month where we will go pet baby goats, do an escape room or just watch weird vines on YouTube. And finally, our secret weapon is Maggie, a Lab Pointer mix who’s sensitive to everyone who is having a bad day. She will literally try and sit on your lap if she thinks you are having a tough day.


What meeting formats do you find really encourages creativity at your company?

We have several types of meetings: small team idea meetings and big team idea meetings. We work to get some good concepts that show a range of thinking and then bring agency people from outside the creative team to test the veracity of the concepts. Then we fix ’em more!


What makes your company a creative environment where ideas and productivity can flow?

Most importantly, you have to embrace the creative product and process. Sometimes we have to eat some money to get there, but it proves to the team and the clients that we take what we do seriously. The second thing we need to do is give permission to the staff to fail. When a creative person feels strongly that their idea is good and should go through, I’ll support the decision even when I doubt it is right. I need to give the team the chance for their dreams to go forward and know that their voice matters. And lastly, we are a safe haven for the quirky, the underdog, and the visionary. If we welcome the odd, we embrace the road less travelled. This is where the magic happens.



Brianna Wettlaufer

CEO and co-founder of Stocksy United


How do you get your team’s creative juices flowing so they’re ready to tackle a new idea or project?

We tend to live and breathe creativity, and are most inspired when there is a challenging opportunity to be solved. The opportunity to bring people from every department to share perspectives about how we can solve a problem is where the inspiration starts.


How do you ensure brainstorming is effective and creative at your company?

The most stifling thing to finding innovation is coming into a meeting with limitations before all ideas have been explored. We look for inspiration from all industries, except our own, avoiding comparing ourselves to competitors, as this often leads to focusing on what a competitor has rather than solving our biggest challenges that are right in front of us.


Do you encourage team-building activities to enhance creativity and productivity?

We’re lucky to have an outdoor patio at the Stocksy office where people can congregate, look out over downtown, and challenge each other, skipping the small talk. But when we need a little extra boost, we hold hackathons: ideas get posted into a Slack channel, people choose which project they’d like to contribute to, and at the end they’re voted on. The winner gets a cash prize.

What meeting formats do you find really encourages creativity at your company?

The best way to stay in the zone of creativity is to keep meetings to a minimum. If there’s a clear problem that requires a conversation, meetings are open invitation to anyone that would like to be there and optional to those who don’t.


What makes your company a creative-friendly environment where ideas and productivity can flow?

We champion a culture of strong opinions. The calibre of people you get to work with at Stocksy will always challenge you to keep raising the bar and consider things from different angles. For that to work, you have to be ready to cut through the good and the bad, which means checking your ego at the door. Nothing good, creative, or innovative can happen if we are more focused on being right than finding the best outcome.