Advice from IDEO’s Chief Creative Officer on Inspiring Creative Work

“It’s not your job to walk into the room with the right answer, but with a great question.”

–Paul Bennett, Chief Creative Officer of IDEO

Paul Bennett is a dynamic and inspiring leader. As Chief Creative Officer at IDEO, he views his central purpose as to be inspiring and to bring out inspiration in others. Paul appears in our Leading for Creativity course and offers a distinct, yet complementary perspective on creative leadership to IDEO CEO and Leading for Creativity instructor, Tim Brown.

We spoke with Paul about what he sees as cornerstones of creative leadership, how to use storytelling to catalyze people toward action, and his no fear attitude toward delving into the void—darker more challenging topics like death and aging.


“Storytelling is an essential tool for creativity.”


One of the highlights from our conversation with Paul was his framework for telling a story. Paul believes that storytelling is an essential tool for creativity and sees story as a way to mobilize people around an idea.

Paul’s simple test on whether a story is worth telling:

  • Can you tell it quickly?
  • Does it emotionally resonate?  

Here’s a basic storytelling structure Paul uses regularly when addressing an audience:

  • 1. Make me like you.
  • Tell a story about yourself. How did you get here?

  • 2. Make me believe you.
  • Tell a story about what you’ve done. Give me stories and evidence that support the idea. Tell me about failure, tell me about what worked and what didn’t work.

  • 3. Make me follow you.
  • Ask your audience a series of questions you’d be thinking about if you were them. This is what I’d be curious about if I were you. Leave them with a sense of curiosity.

    Paul appears alongside a global, all-star cast in our online course Leading for Creativity taught by IDEO CEO Tim Brown. For more on improving your skills as a storyteller, check out Storytelling for Influence.

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