Gensler has witnessed thousands of ideas make their way to reality. However, he is mystified as to how a project “turns real.” As he says, “It just seems to happen.” But, two traits that Gensler values as absolutely essential in the creative world are professionalism and drive. As he explains, “I believe in working with people that are already accomplished and driven, I think that passion (if not obsession) for creating is the fertile soil that births reality.” As for the great ideas that never materialize, Gensler believes that “fear and hesitation are the best ways of ensuring projects will never see the light of day – you have to just go for it and never think too much about the challenges ahead.”Despite Gensler’s success, he is not without challenge. In his words, “I personally always feel challenged removing the emotional side of my thought process when dealing with straight business planning and strategy. I am beginning to think that it is a personal asset, allowing me to see problems from a unique angle of attack. I am also always challenged when dealing with clients that put you into well-defined boxes – you are either a business guy or a design guy. It is rare, but wise clients can [understand how to best utilize] every asset.”
“There is no logic or method to how we avoid bad clients, we just do somehow (knock on wood). I think the challenges [that you face] keep you on your toes. Look at the main advertising industry, three decades of boom resulted in a bloated mess and then a frantic rush to save themselves from disaster. Conflict builds strength, if managed correctly.”
To stay accountable throughout bold projects, Gensler relies on himself and, he admits, his own ego. He explains, “I just can’t allow myself to fall. I will torture myself to simply keep working until the project is complete and perfect. Since the KDU never sleeps, there is always a project…always a deadline to manage… I could not live any other way. I think that success lives in you or it doesn’t – a hard reality to face, but reality is often cold like that.”
On the topic of collaboration, the KDU is a brilliant example of the benefits at the intersection of creative talent. Gensler agrees, “we are collaborating constantly throughout all our brands… it is an essential element of the KDU. I don’t need to look any deeper than the KDU members to find inspiration. Their work is among the best of the best, and it pushed me to continue to learn and develop myself. Outside of that I try to look far outside the industry to find inspiration – I love poetry and language…I love science and mathematics as well…”
Gensler’s accomplishments are the result of sheer perspiration and a willingness to question the conventional methods to making ideas happen. He pushed himself hard to build the KDU and establish a credible brand before the age of 30. He explains, “I think the pride of being self-made…has been a constant throughout my career, especially now. I have also successfully walked my own path and ignored most of the design, media and advertising conventions. I am alarmed at how few people in my generation are willing to break from the pack and develop their own unique points of view.”
Behind Gensler’s passion and work ethic is a thoughtful mission. He explains, “I actually still think I could change the world. Maybe…well, hopefully make a difference. I am actually motivated by the possibility that a single great idea could bring forth change the same way a single bad choice can lead to disaster. I am becoming less and less concerned with myself and more concerned with what I leave behind. Don’t get me wrong, I still ruthlessly and passionately fight for my brands and clients, but I think having a broader and more balanced outlook on the industry and the world helps me be more competitive.”
Gensler has some heartfelt hopes for the world. His values come through in the way he empowers creative professionals, his self-reliance, and his hopes for the future. “I think we should raise our children to be more dependent on great ideas and independent thinking and less dependent on brands and manufactured realities… Maybe the new generations will actually develop energy solutions that don’t end up killing people, or maybe they will rebel against brands and companies that exploit in the name of profit. I think we should all be constantly mindful of the word ‘Balance.’” Amen.