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My Creative Hero: Edward De Bono


Mick Mahoney, creative partner at Harbour Collective on the influence of the master of lateral thinking

My Creative Hero: Edward De Bono

Image credit: Wikipedia/By Impact Hub

Mick has created famous campaigns for brands like Stella Artois, Nike, BA, Vodafone, Johnnie Walker, BBC and Boots. He has worked at some of London’s best creative agencies including Lowe, BBH, Rainey Kelly Y&R and Ogilvy. From 2005 to 2009, Mick was creative director at BBH, running BA, Johnny Walker, Persil and Vodafone. He then became executive creative director of Havas London in 2009, seeing the agency enjoy the most creatively awarded period in its history, with accolades for work across traditional categories such as film and film craft but also in branded content, technical innovation, social media, web design, game design, integrated campaign, and interactive.

In 2013 Mick joined RKCR Y&R as executive creative director and then in February 2016, he moved to fellow WPP network agency, Ogilvy, as chief creative officer. Along with Harbour Collective strategy partner, Kev Chesters, he was part of a new management team brought in to rebuild the Ogilvy brand in the UK. Achieving 12 new business wins in 12 months including Boots, Vodafone and BA, the agency was shortlisted for Agency of the Year in 2017, and Mick was featured in Campaign’s top creative director list at his third agency in a row.

Mick joined Harbour as creative partner in May 2019.

He has been recognised by every major festival, with well over 150 industry awards, including a Cannes Grand Prix, three Gold Lions, six Silver Lions, a One Show Best in Show, five D&AD Silvers, five British Arrows Golds and a Ted Ideas Worth Spreading Award. Along with Kev, Mick is the co-author of the recently published book, The Creative Nudge.

LBB> Who would you say is your creative hero? 

Mick> My creative hero isn’t someone who has inspired me with their creative output, it is someone who helped me to understand what creativity really means. He made me realise that creativity isn’t whether you can draw, sculpt, compose or write ads, it’s so much more than that. Creativity is about open mindedness and curiosity. And it belongs to everyone. Not a privileged few. And not just people in the creative industries.

My creative hero is Edward De Bono. The man who coined the expression ‘Lateral Thinking.’ Which he explained as “Seeking to solve problems by using unique methods. A process and willingness to look at things in a different way.”

LBB> How long has he been important to you and what are your first memories of meeting him or coming across his work?

Mick> He has been important to me for my entire life. Although I didn’t know he was until a few years ago. 

Growing up, I struggled with the idea that I was a creative person. It always made me feel like an odd one out. Like it was something silly or ephemeral and that I’d probably grow out of it. Which is in most people’s case the truth. You do grow out of it. We are all born with the ability to think creatively and through a combination of school, society, work etc it is stripped out of us bit by bit. They all want us to conform. Go with the prevailing narrative flow. Which minimises creativity’s potential to bring about needed change and influence progress in every field.

Like most people working in the creative industries, I’d heard of him but didn’t really know much about him. Everyone knows the name and the term lateral thinking. And most people could take a stab at what it means. But it was only when I saw this quote from him that I really sat up and took note.

“Creativity makes life more colourful and more interesting.” 

This quote was so powerful to me that I used it on the first page of The Creative Nudge, the book I co-authored with Kev Chesters about how to rediscover your creative brain. 

LBB> If it’s someone you personally know, how did you get to know him and how has your relationship evolved over the years? If you don’t know him, how did you go about finding to learn more about him and his work?

Mick> Sadly, De Bono died last year. I would love to have met him and discussed creativity. But at least there are plenty of books and talks to study.  

LBB> Why is the person such an inspiration to you? 

Mick> His work is the foundation of my belief in the primacy of creativity. He has given me the confidence to champion creativity to a wider audience. The Creative Nudge was my first attempt to do this. Kev and I have also been asked by the Guardian newspaper to give a creativity masterclass in September which should be an interesting experience. And my next book explores creativity as a life skill. 

LBB> How does this person influence you in your approach to your creative work? 

Mick> Edward De Bono has completely changed my relationship with creativity. I no longer think about creativity as just an artistic pursuit. It is, of course. But that is only one aspect of it. I’m now actively trying to encourage everyone to embrace their creative selves. And to bring creative thinking to the widest audience possible. Creativity lies at the heart of all progress. It should be taught in schools. Encouraged in industry. Be a fundamental skill demanded in commerce.

LBB> What piece or pieces of this person’s work do you keep coming back to and why?

Mick> I constantly come back to this quote. If ever you needed validation for your pursuit of creativity, here it is: 

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.”

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Harbour, Fri, 17 Jun 2022 11:35:42 GMT