From famous filmmaker to corporate mentor

by AB02 Dec 2013

Jamie Catto explains how to foster creativity in your business. Jill Fraser reports

Jamie Catto’s credentials as an artist are internationally acclaimed. The UK based singer/songwriter founded the 1990s dance super-group, Faithless and went on to co-create and co-direct the Grammy nominated film, 1 Giant Leap and its sequel, What About Me?

Five years ago Catto turned his hand to mentoring and motivating individuals and groups in business and the community. Glowing testimonials from Google, KPMG and Ogilvy & Maher suggest that at age 45 he has found his niche.
“During my film projects I worked closely with some of the world’s top thinkers and creators including Bono, Stephen Fry, Kurt Vonnegut, Anita Roddick (Body Shop), KD Lang, Michael Stipe (REM), Alanis Morissette, Dido, Annie Lennox, Dennis Hopper, John Cusack, Noam Chomsky, Carrie Fisher, Billy Connolly, Tim Robbins, Carlos Santana, Susan Sarandon, Robbie Williams, Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, to name a few, and the significance of creativity, identifying it and liberating it, in the success equation became obvious,” Catto says.
Catto describes himself a “creativity catalyst”, a tag that Enrique Nalda, head of travel at Google, endorses.
“It takes Jamie’s approach to bring out our full potential. What he did at Google was breathtaking! (If you) want to energise your team, engage Jamie today. He is a legend,” Nalda enthuses.
Comments from KPMG London were equally congratulatory: “Jamie is instantly engaging and memorable. We were looking for someone to help our team see that they can be more effective and happier in their roles by bringing more of themselves to work. Jamie did that fantastically. Through a series of stretching activities and sheer enthusiasm he helped our diverse group explore their strengths and darker sides to understand how each has a role in delivering their best to each other and our clients.”
Catto says his approach is about encouraging people to recognise that “we’re all approval addicts”, which is “limiting our creativity and genius”. “We’re hiding behind our need for approval,” he exclaims adding that this results in utilising only “20% of our capabilities”. His workshops entail revealing everyone’s masks, removing them, exposing vulnerability and nurturing everyone’s uniqueness and creativity.
If you think this sounds terrifying don’t be concerned, he says reassuringly. There is nothing overly serious or intense about his work: On the contrary.
“It’s all about laughter, fun and playing games I’ve devised to tap into your creativity and make you happier and more productive and collaborative in the workplace.”
Catto’s aim is to transform the workplace into a place of enjoyment. The by-product of this, he maintains, is that the amount of energy expended goes down and productivity and profit increase. His methods are unconventional but as Ogilvy & Maher creative director, Carl Le Blond states, they work.
“Jamie effortlessly captivated a room full of seasoned creative directors from all over Europe. He’s a positive inspiration – a force for good,” said Le Blond following one of Catto’s corporate ‘happenings’.
Arguing that many contemporary work environments adopt a stick and carrot approach, “milking the fear-based idea that failure means rejection and/or getting fired”, Catto says: “Learning how to fail well is the most educational and productive thing a company can do.
“Short-term failure brings long-term fortune. People need to feel safe failing. Our executives are so high-powered and concerned about margins they limit creative thought by instilling fear of failure and in so doing, strangle the possibility of brilliance, success and abundance.”
Catto’s methods, which he introduces through a series of exercises and games, are designed to bypass the mind, which he says always tries to control and think logically, and give licence to feelings and abstract ideas.
He establishes a “creative connection” in the workplace akin to the one that exists between musicians.
“When we play music we’re in a space of mutual appreciation, engagement and enjoyment. It’s this connection that enables us to create and be productive,” Catto says.
“Establishing that same feeling of intimacy and being a team in the workplace generates a quantum leap and the work environment becomes a place of raised engagement.”
Catto maintains that going beyond personas, roles and job descriptions boosts productivity. 
“When people are engaged with their work and each other they do twice as much in half the time,” he says.
“When you love something and feel a connection with the people you’re working with your work improves. So much work time is taken up with internal politics, personal insecurities, competitiveness and people playing out their parental approval dramas. The whole workplace is full of everyone’s mess as opposed to their mutual appreciation and creativity.”
His games are aimed to induce laughter and remove hierarchy (tea boys interviewing CEOs and asking them to disclose their quirks and idiosyncrasies) and create trust and confidence (five minutes of silent eye contact).
Catto admits that a review of his workshops and mentoring in the Daily Telegraph (UK) is pretty accurate.
“...A polite warning; prolonged exposure to Jamie Catto could blow your mind...” it stated.
“But they all loved me,” he laughs.