Marketing CEO talks creativity at third annual DOYO Live conference

By Jordyn Grzelewski


To many, the writing talents of J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” series, seem unattainable.

Few imagine they could come close to classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s musical skills.

Allen Gannett, founder and CEO of marketing analytics firm TrackMaven, was here to tell those people they’re wrong.

Gannett gave the keynote speech Thursday at the third annual DOYO Live marketing and interactive design conference. The conference, which kicked off Wednesday, drew hundreds of professionals to the DeYor Performing Arts Center downtown for professional-development workshops, speakers and networking opportunities.

In addition to providing those opportunities, the conference founded by Dennis Schiraldi seeks to show off what Youngstown has to offer – hence, “do Yo.”

Gannett shared some of the insights he gained while doing research for his new book, “The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time.”

In our culture, Gannett said, we link creativity with those we view as creative geniuses – Albert Einstein, Beyonce, Paul McCartney – and we buy into the narrative their winning ideas hit them like lightning bolts.

“Over and over again, you find they have these moments, these lightning bolts, these flashes of genius,” he said. “This is the way we talk about creativity.”

Gannett decided to examine creativity to see if history, academic research and personal experiences supported this way of understanding it. He found that much of what we believe about creative culture is myth.

He noted, for example, the real story of Mozart is not one of a flash of genius, but of a child pushed to practice his musical skills for hours every day.

“The research does not support the inspiration theory of creativity,” Gannett said.

He learned, too, that above an average IQ threshold, we all have the same creative potential. Gannett offered some guidance on how that potential can be unlocked.

Key to that, he said, is consuming creative content from the niche in which we are interested. J.K. Rowling, for example, spent her childhood reading, and links strong writing skills with reading.

Gannett found this in academic research as well as in interviews with creative professionals.

Ultimately, Gannett’s research led him to what he calls the “creative curve,” a tool for marketing professionals to target the point at which an idea satisfies two things humans crave: familiarity and novelty.

He found many of those “creative geniuses” began by imitating the structure of works they admired, then found a way to put a unique twist on that structure.

“Creativity is about creating that blend of the familiar and the novel,” Gannett said.

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