A global creative director, Timo Kiuru, works with global brands in the US, Asia, and Europe. He strongly believes ‘caring’ is at the core of future leadership and it plays a central role in everything companies do: what you need to create a better customer experience, to cultivate innovation, to lead your team and your business in the right direction to grow.
Timo Kiuru speaks to professional audiences around the world and his observations are published in a number of international publications. Timo Kiuru was recognized with the global 40 under 40 industry award in 2016. (This blog is written based on the interview with Timo on Sept. 27th, 2019 at Canvas room, HUONE Kamppi and his new book, THE LONELY CREATIVE – True Stories That Will Help You And Your Business Grow)
What is at the core of Future Leadership?: ‘creativity’ and ‘caring’
According to the World Economic Forum, creativity is one of the most important qualities for future leaders. In fact, it applies to the whole workforce at every level. Timo shares that as we have more and more discussions about AI, technological innovations, what’s left to us, to people, is ‘creativity.’ Hence, the key skill of a future leader becomes to lead ‘creativity.’
Future leaders need to lead creativity and the creatives need to become leaders.
As we live in the ‘commercial environment,’ an idea still needs to become a reality for it to matter, otherwise, it is just a dream. So, leaders need to embrace creativity as something that drives the growth of a business. At the same time, the creatives need to become more of the leaders. It means that they need to understand more about the business environment they work in, which eventually will help the creatives to make a bigger impact in the world.
People only follow those who truly care
Timo believes at the core of future leadership, is also ‘caring.’ He adds that people do not want to waste their time following those, who don’t really care about what they want to achieve, especially during tough times.
“It’s the tough heart of the business. At the end of the day, we only follow those who truly care. Some might pretend to follow someone, but it would be ‘pretending.’ It is time for us to grow up.”
Leaders need to lead uncertainty
Many businesses find themselves in ambiguity with markets changing faster than ever, customers have more choices than ever. Hence, leaders’ ability to lead uncertainty becomes also very important. ‘Leaders need to have the vision for what’s important right now’ he shares in his book. He adds ‘Future Leaders Need to Excel at ‘Dreaming.’ People and employees commit to the vision, the dream of a company. Take the company Tesla as an example; Tesla’s vision of being the most advanced car brand in the world, and doing something that will drive the change in the world, that’s what motivates people. Money cannot motivate you in the long run, it’s the things that actually matter to us.
How does ‘caring’ play a part in creating a better customer experience?
Why do we talk so much about customer experience? It is simply because it’s going to matter more and more. People decide to purchase a product or a service not only for its benefit but also more for the customer experience. And the ‘experience is always an emotional one’ Timo writes in his book.
‘Caring’ cannot be hidden, and it is the only way to improve the experience.
Only from ‘caring’ genuinely about your customers, your team and the vision, a company can grow. Timo stresses that caring is something that cannot be hidden and something that you cannot fake. It’s how you improve the customer experience—caring for each small detail in your customers’ shoes. It will lead to new and better products and services.
Think with one sentence: ‘I love you too’
Timo also believes that branding has changed so that instead of polishing the surface, companies now let the customers see the behind the curtains. Polished images don’t work anymore. Imagine you walked into a place you love or you walked into a nice hotel thinking ‘I love this place’ but you don’t feel that love being returned. Instead, you constantly receive the opposite message ‘I don’t really care about you. I’m busy with what I’m doing and you’re just one of thousands we have.’ It would be pretty painful and tragic. So think about all different touchpoints, how your company would you convey the message ‘I love you too.‘ Maybe it can be a creative one.
Culture of innovation is a scary
Creativity leads to better products, new services—new innovations. How do companies cultivate a culture of innovation?
According to Timo, there’s no such thing as a culture of innovation. “There are only organizations that strive to have a culture of innovation, there’s no end result, instead, it’s a constant process” He compares this to having an old house of your own, which needs constant renovation. You make it better all the time. But on the other hand, innovation is an outcome such as improved or new product, or new service. The process is scary and difficult because creating something new means there needs to be a room for it; If you want to focus on something different, you need to get rid of something old, something that you’re used to. That’s not easy. Nobody knows what the new way entails.
“Do creative spaces like HUONE create value for companies?”
While Timo believes the creatives minds are creative regardless of where they are, he is a believer in HUONE’s story. “It is a beautiful story of growth, a story of having courage, and a story of thinking big.”
I could see that space like HUONE creates value for businesses as it makes you think about your meeting more carefully; what is it that you actually want to accomplish, and what is the agenda of the meeting and so on. You always need to evoke an emotion, and that is what HUONE does.”