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Last year Pernod Ricard Winemakers started an in-house Think Creative Leadership Lab in an effort to broaden creative thinking across the company. Marketing and new product development is part of the agenda but it’s much broader.

The Sydney-based global winemaking unit of Pernod Ricard charged creativity and concept director, Paulina Larocca with the new remit and she’s now rolling out a series of initiatives starting in Australia and New Zealand but going global over the next few years.

Larocca, who is a keynote on Wednesday in Sydney at ADMA’s Engage conference, says one of the first shifts for the company as a result of the Creative Lab program is to take the naming of its wine ranges in-house.     

“One of the most challenging things to do in wine is naming,” she says. “You can imagine how many brands there are out there. Virtually every good name is taken and when you expand it on a global scale, it’s really hard to find names you can register legally. We have been able to take that in-house and use the collective power inside to run brainstorming sessions and generate names. That is saving quite a bit of money with naming agencies, which you can imagine is quite expensive.”

Product development is an obvious zone for creative thinking but Larocca is taking it further – to operations, IT, finance, HR and right down to the people in the vineyards growing the grapes.

Larocca is trying to bust the historically narrow perspective on creativity’s definition.

“It’s very difficult to define and a lot of people don’t understand the difference between creativity and innovation,” she says. “They confuse and interchange those two concepts. I don’t think there is a lack of intent. I just think a lot of businesses don’t know where to start. People tend to put it into the domain of marketing and if they have an innovation team, creativity in my experience becomes even more specialised. It’s not recognised as a business skill. Pernod Ricard is quiet visionary in backing this program and that they have a much bigger concept of creativity than new product development. It’s across the whole business – finance, HR, viticulture, production, marketing and new product development. They paid for me to do a Masters of Creativity which allowed me to put a science and process around creativity and take it from a grey area where there is a lot of snake oil.”

The science component wraps partly around psychology, neuroscience and longitudinal studies following children through to adulthood. It also encompasses unraveling the drivers of people who are said to be “naturally creative”.

The takeout, says Larocca, is that creativity can be taught and importantly in team environments, different people have different creative bents which can be brought together – every Pernod Ricard staffer going through the Creative lab comes out with a particular creative profile.

She points to James Kaufman’s work around “Big C” creatives like Einstein and Van Gogh and “Little C” creative which is deliberate, everyday problem solving. The latter is the focus for the company.

Larocca says Edward De Bono broadly fits into the second bucket and it’s a derivative of that stream which she is trying to bring to the winemaker although the company does not use De Bono’s lateral thinking framework.

“De Bono democratised creativity and certainly put it into boardrooms,” she says. “He tends to amalgamate other people’s tools and claim them as his own and some purists and academics think there are some challenges around how Edward has positioned himself. But from my perspective he is taking it out of the academic realm and has put it into the corporate boardroom. I think he’s done the world a great service.”

Larocca will expand on how Pernod Ricard is applying creativity inside the company on Wednesday in Sydney at Engage.

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