What happens when you mix football coaches and software engineers? Detectives and dancers? In the case of the “Gang,” they find creativity in unexpected places.
The Gang is a unique group of eight high performing, highly creative organizations based in Boise that, at first glance, have little else in common. But their leaders have forged professional bonds and discovered just how similar they are in terms of challenges and aspirations.
“I can rub elbows with people who are forward thinking, with Boise State serving as the conduit,” said Jamie Cooper, Gang member and CEO of Drake Cooper. “I don’t really care where the creativity comes from.”
“Everyone studies the best in their industry,” said member Bob Lokken, president and CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics. “If you’re really interested in pushing performance, you need to bring something you won’t see in the industry.”
Nancy Napier, executive director for Boise State’s Centre for Creativity and Innovation, originally brought the group together when she began researching common elements among successful organizations across diverse disciplines.
Fast forward a couple of years and these leaders are sharing creative solutions. The full group meets annually and Gang leaders have started informal bi-monthly “messy problem” lunches where the host organization sends out a problem it faces and other members join in the conversation.
“I’m not aware of a group like this anywhere else,” Napier said. “While many associations and groups support specific industry sector or business organizations generally, the Gang’s strength is in its willingness to see and use the value of drawing on other disciplines and sectors for similarities and lessons.”
Members of the Gang shared their thoughts on creativity at a sold-out Boise Young Professionals gathering earlier this month.
“To have a thought partner is so rare, particularly the CEO of another organization,” said Gang member John Michael Schert, executive director for Trey McIntyre Project.
The group hopes to help capture the best ideas, attract creative thinkers and organizations and inspire new business growth, with the ultimate goal of building a stronger economy for Boise.
“This gives us a point of connection through which we can become a greater good for the community,” said Mark Hofflund, managing director for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
Having the members based in Boise only adds to their potential impact.
“Being in a rather remote location might seem off the creativity beaten path, but being in Boise is part of what makes it all work so well,” Napier said. “In a community that is relatively small, Gang members see how connecting the dots among organizations can help build a community that boldly makes its own future.”
Napier’s two most recent books highlight these organizations as key case studies. “Insight: Encouraging Aha! Moments for Organizational Success” was released earlier this summer by Praeger publishing house and features many stories from the Gang.
“Each of these organizations epitomizes qualities of outstanding creative learning organizations: never-ending curiosity, openness about examining their successes and mistakes, relentless attention to building and preserving strong cultures, and a disciplined approach to creativity and innovation. To have access to such acknowledged highly creative, high performing organizations and to bring them together to learn from one another has been magical.”
Members of the Gang include:
- Bob Lokken, WhiteCloud Analytics
- Charlie Fee and Mark Hofflund, Idaho Shakespeare Festival
- Jamie Cooper, Drake Cooper
- Don Kemper and Jim Balkins, Healthwise
- Chris Petersen, Boise State football
- Gary Raney and Ron Freeman, Ada County Sheriff’s Office
- Trey McIntyre and John Michael Schert, Trey McIntyre Project
- Russ Whitney and Craig Boobar, Microsoft Boise