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“Stop asking permission!” with Candice Georgiadis & Sacha Wynne

“Stop asking permission!” All three words came from one woman: the inimitable Broadway PR legend Irene Gandy. This advice was given to me fairly recently and brought me to my senses. In spite of my big dreams and goals, I thought I needed external validation. Thanks to Irene, now I know better. As a part […]

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“Stop asking permission!” All three words came from one woman: the inimitable Broadway PR legend Irene Gandy. This advice was given to me fairly recently and brought me to my senses. In spite of my big dreams and goals, I thought I needed external validation. Thanks to Irene, now I know better.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sacha Wynne.

Sacha Wynne launched WӔRK in 2015, inspired by the potential for artists to transform business for the better. She is a published creative writer, a former editor, and has collaborated with executive leadership at Fortune 500 corporations on Consumer Insights, Marketing Analytics, and Executive Management teams. Sacha has led transformative marketing, audience engagement, and community development initiatives in the non-profit sector. WӔRK is an alumni member of the New Museum’s NEW INC, an incubator for projects at the intersection of art, design, and technology.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I never imagined myself as an entrepreneur — I dreamed of a career as an artist. I found myself on this path when writing admissions statements for graduate schools while working in corporate America. I realized that the skills I cultivated in my creative practice could fill gaps in the business world. For a few years, I studied and experimented until I came up with my business model and launched WӔRK. I think my creative background prepared me for entrepreneurship because I was used to solving problems, both deliberately and intuitively, and, of course, as an artist, I was used to rejection when starting out!

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I help businesses understand their customers, and their responsibilities to the living world, by introducing artistic methods into their research, marketing, and operations processes. This work flies in the face of the conventional beliefs that quantitative data is purer or more objective than qualitative research, that statistics are more valuable than stories, that art and artists aren’t relevant to real life, and that sentiment and emotion are not reliable measures. My goal is to forge empathetic bonds and deepen understanding between brands and the people who purchase their products and services. I prioritize people and the planet as much as profit.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I remember meeting with a few startup investors and going through my pitch. They repeatedly told me that the idea was interesting, but that there were too many people involved in the business model and that they “don’t invest in people.” I had to laugh, even though I think it’s not funny. It’s quite sad.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Mentors are everything! I wish I’d learned this much earlier in life and think all high school students should be encouraged to build these relationships. I am so grateful for the guidance of my friend and mentor, Bob James. He has taught me many things over the years, but I admire most of his ability to lead with grace, humility, and generosity. I am also grateful for the “mentorship” of my dearest friends over the years: the support, advice, and love they offer continues to buoy me. And their successes always inspire.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think we need more meaningful disruption. There are so many systems and institutions in need of disruption that haven’t been touched! I’d love to remove the “disruptors” that operate by the Golden Rule from the relative fringes (non-profits, B-corps), centered, and invested in heavily. We can create a better world if we begin to prioritize serving the stakeholders in a business (customers, employees, the environment) in addition to shareholders.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Stop asking permission!” All three words came from one woman: the inimitable Broadway PR legend Irene Gandy. This advice was given to me fairly recently and brought me to my senses. In spite of my big dreams and goals, I thought I needed external validation. Thanks to Irene, now I know better.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

I think that, because of information overload, relationships are the ultimate lead generator. Asking people you know, for connections to people you would like to reach, is likely to be impactful. If your network reaching the people you would like to reach, try thoughtful “blind” emails to people you would like to build relationships with. Also, surprisingly, Twitter.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m writing a book! The working title is Disrupted: How Art Will Prevent the Robot Apocalypse. It explores the innovator’s dilemma of the 2020s: how will the Information Age face its reckoning, now that we know algorithms alone are not the answer? I posit that art should swoop in to save the day like it always does.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Bell hooks’ All About Love. It transformed me and is a talisman I often return to. It focuses on our humanity, on healing, and universal desires, and reminds us that love is an active, evolving process — love is alive! I try to bring these thoughts and lessons to both my personal and professional lives.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about this Bjork quote I came across recently, via @__nitch:

“I find workaholism really anti-fertile. For example, in my work with Scandinavian schools with biophilia, it is very apparent that short school days and a lot of free time inspires the imagination most and not only makes the kids happier but also they make more original things in the end. I’ve seen how working until midnight in the biggest cities is really destructive…and you aren’t coming up with any new ideas but just repeating old stuff on a loop.”

I’m also a regular reader of Vu Le’s Nonprofit AF. Although it’s non-profit focused, I find his perspectives to be widely relevant to 21st Century businesses.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

DDHD — Dreams Don’t Have Deadlines. I believe that L.L. Cool J coined the term, and Bridget Everett later adopted it. I interpret it as an entreaty to never give up. Talent and hard work are a small part of the puzzle. Tenacity will lead you to your luck, and even though you’ll probably have to wait for it longer than you’d like — that’s OK.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be to unabashedly embed empathy and imagination into business. This would encompass encouraging businesses to see the humanity in all of their customers and employees, address their needs and desires, and commit to equity. This would encompass the prioritization of the impact of products and services on the environment in the product development pipeline and a commitment to being conservators of the planet for future generations. This would encompass readily giving chances (and second and third chances), embracing people and unfamiliar situations, and welcoming vulnerability in the workplace.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m on Twitter @waerkit. My website is www.waerk.com. You can sign up for my newsletter there if you’d like.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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