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Bring On the Fresh Perspectives—a Q&A with Grant Sanders on His Experiences at the Creative Leaders Retreat

The Creative Leaders Retreat is an international conference that attracts speakers and creative risk-takers in the advertising industry. Creative Director, Grant Sanders, took the trip out to Scottsdale, AZ in early February to attend this year’s retreat. We caught up with him when he got back to ask him about the retreat, what he learned and what made the trip worth it.

M+H: First, we just wanted to say thanks for answering our questions on the retreat today. We wanted to jump right into it by asking you what makes flying across the country a worthwhile endeavor now that there are conferences hosted online?

GS: Online webinars have their place. I’ve participated in a bunch of them and many are excellent. But getting out of the office for a conference like this is a great way to hit the reset button and really think about one’s work in a very new context. Literally and figuratively. Participating through a web browser in the office is so easily interrupted by urgent matters and colleague requests. There is no substitute for the concentrated focus an off-site experience provides. Plus, I learned something valuable at every breakfast, lunch and dinner just talking to fellow attendees. It’s a far richer experience than anything one can do online.

M+H: So did you meet a lot of new people?

GS: There were 110 attendees and mentors, and I probably talked to most of them at one point or another. One of the best things about an event like this is comparing notes with folks who all face the same challenges every day. I met people from big agencies. Tiny shops. Client organizations. People from the west coast. Chicago. Atlanta. Toronto. London. I even met a guy named Monkey.

M+H: Moving in to more specifics, was there anything new you learned that you’re planning to use here at Mintz + Hoke?

GS: I learned dozens of things that I plan to inject into the work I do here. Maybe hundreds. Much of the content of the retreat is about working with teams and getting great work out of a creative department, and I’m always looking at new ways to catalyze newness into the work we do. One example: I learned how to create a brand-based chat bot.

M+H: We know you attended a lot of sessions. Could you describe a few of the most interesting ones and what you took away from them?

GS: Two of the most interesting sessions talked about how some of the most creative shops in the world stay ahead of the curve by executing projects that are not tied to clients in any way (interestingly, neither was US based). They do it to exercise their technology and creative muscles and infuse their culture with innovation. It’s about learning. It’s about making things. And it’s about not coming up with the same creative solution over and over. My biggest take-away from this is that fostering a DIY culture within the agency—something I’ve been doing here for a few years—is a really valuable thing.

M+H: How about the speakers themselves—any favorites?

GS: I really liked listening to Glenn Cole talk about how they pitch new business at 72 and Sunny. I picked up a couple of big ah-has. Plus he and I were dressed exactly the same. Black shirt. Chinos. White sneakers.

M+H: Sounds like an experience that will benefit everyone. To wrap this up, if you could describe the conference in one word, what would it be?

GS: Energizing.

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