So when Fast Company set out to capture the personalities of our 100 Most Creative People in Business, we started–where else?–by looking for online profiles. Melinda Gates (#2), for example, has more than 50 Google News hits. J.J. Abrams (#14), Tyler Perry (#21), and Pharrell Williams (#36) all have lengthy Wikipedia entries and flashy professional Web sites. And searching Tyra Banks (#49) on YouTube spawns 21,000 video clips (and several cheap laughs).
But when it comes to sharing themselves–not just their businesses, but their business–our creative class clams up. Only 33 have Twitter accounts. Just 19 maintain personal blogs. And four have Flickr pages. In fact, when we emailed bicycle designer Larry Chen (#89) for a link to his blog or photo account, he started cracking jokes. “I don’t have anything like that,” he replied. “I use my computer for two things: Drawing and flight simulation games.”
We’d be lying if we said we weren’t surprised. After all, we’ve written time and time again about the business-savvy of social networks, and we’ve commended companies like Zappos and Comcast for getting personal on Facebook and Twitter. We also chose our 100 most creative people, in part, for their willingness to embrace the unfamiliar. Why, then, are they largely skipping out on Web 2.0?
Louis Gray, a seasoned technology blogger, blames the “corporate” mentality. Even though it seems like everyone (read: Oprah) is talking about Twitter, he says, the service primarily caters to young people and early adopters. Ditto Flickr and Last.fm. Older, more experienced CEOs and CEO-types–many of whom populate our list–are more reluctant to play along, especially if they don’t see any significant ROI on their 140 character missives.
“We saw the same thing happen with blogs,” Gray explains. “Big businesspeople aren’t just going to start sharing themselves on the Internet for no reason. They need to hear about these services from trusted third parties,” such as friends, family, analysts and PR consultants. “Plus,” he adds, “does Jonathan Ive (#1) really have time to Twitter?”
Alexandra Patsavas (#29) says it’s not only about the time sink. As part of her business, Chop Shop Music Supervision, she searches for new music to enhance popular TV shows, like Mad Men and Grey’s Anatomy. Recently, she’s taken to MySpace, where bands upload full tracks and post contact info. (“It’s incredibly helpful,” she says.) But Patsavas would never use a service like Last.fm, which publishes music you play on personal time. “I’m not interested in constantly updating people about how I’m doing and what I’m listening to,” she says. “I think it’s arrogant.”
To be fair, roughly a quarter of our creative class has embraced social-networking services. We did, after all, recognize Twitter founder Evan Williams (#34) and Facebook wunderkind Dave Morin (#16). And while Apple’s Ive may be too busy to Tweet, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior (#33) somehow finds the time–and it hasn’t hurt her business.
Even non-tech-types, like Neil Gaiman (#40), Damien Hirst (#22), and Gary Hustwit (#74), are rapidly filling our 100 Most Creative Twitters feed. “My business is digital and young and vibrant, and so are the lifestyles of people I do business with,” explains Lisa Ellis (#50), an avid Twitter-er and a partner at Fireman Capital. “So for me, it seems natural to have a strong online presence.”
Could Ellis and Co. be harbingers of Enterprise 2.0, a business world where big-name companies–and their execs–are as accessible as everyday teenagers? Or will CEO-types side with Patsavas, and keep their thoughts (and pictures and songs) to themselves?
We’re not sure, but we’d love to hear your thoughts, feel free to leave them below. Then friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our flickr photo feed and watch our YouTube channel. Unlike some people, we’re way down with enterprise 2.0.