This summer in Berlin, we hosted a screening of Hermann Vaske’s Why Are We Creative? as part of the July Module of our Executive MBA in Creative Leadership. 30 years in the making, the documentary features interviews with some of the world’s most ground-breaking creative minds, from David Bowie and Yoko Ono, to Vivian Westwood, Nelson Mandela and The Dalai Lama. The screening was not only a chance for our EMBA class to meet the Director himself, but also carried over into rich in-class discussion over the following days; “What drives creativity? How can we reframe the question? How does it provoke us as leaders?” We had our own questions for Hermann Vaske, and caught up with him post-screening about the highlights, surprizes and insights gleaned from decades of fascinating, provocative conversations.



What has been the most surprising moment or lesson from working on this thirty-year film project?

The most surprising moment was when I did the surreal interview with David Bowie. I met him in New York and he played me demo tapes from his latest album. When it came to the interview I suggested to do it in a surreal Magritte kind of fashion. David looking into the camera and me looking outside the window. David enjoyed that a lot. He was a great creative person and we miss him a lot. It was a great lesson in creativity to create a surprise by simply putting things upside down. You know when Gilbert and George were once interviewed by the BBC they asked “Do we have to do the interview like this? You there, us here, camera over there? Can’t we stand on our heads and talk with our feet?” You have to surprise people. If you ask me what I really want, I say surprise me, please surprise me. And putting things upside down is a great way to achieve that. 


‘Why Are We Creative’ looks into the minds of creative legends from over the past few decades. But if you could time-travel to any era, which creative would you most like to speak to and why?

Recently I had lunch with my friend Oliviero Toscani. And Oliviero said to me “You are a modern version of Giorgio Vasari”. Giorgo Vasari was an painter and architect of the Italian Renaissance. He also was an author and writer and reflected about the great creative people of his era. The Michelangelos, the Raffaels and the DaVincis. He is the regarded godfather of Art History. Recently there was a book published about him called “The collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art”. I would like to meet the guy in Florence and talk about the history of creativity.


You have interviewed great minds from a wide range of industries. Have you noticed a particular thread that links their attitudes?

It seems that there are as many reasons for creativity as there are creative people in the world. Yet, in all this poliverse of creativity, a common thought can be found: I am who I am. I’m not afraid to be different and I don’t ask for approval. Pussy Riot didn’t ask for approval before they started their creative journey.


Industries, whether creative or not, are changing rapidly in the digital era. Do you feel that is technological evolution is disrupting or enhancing our creative capacity?

There is a chance that technological evolution is enhancing creativity. You know, yesterday I went to the annual presentation of the University of the Arts in Berlin and I saw a torrent of extraordinary and surprising ideas that had to do with the technological evolution. What I found extremely fascinating when you mix digital and analog. It is perfectly in line with Eisenstein’s definition of creativity to combine two things that have nothing to do with each other in order to create a third. I saw quite a few interesting examples at the University of the Arts.


At The Berlin School, our focus is on Creative Leadership. What, to you, are the distinguishing qualities of great creative leader?

The first quality is passion. That I learned from Marina Abramovic when she came to the Venice Film Festival to support the launch of “Why Are We Creative?”. You have to give more than 100 % just to be good enough. Another important part about supporting creativity is tolerating failure. If it is okay to fail and that it was brave to try, the more people will take risks and be creative.



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