Posted September 19, 2011

Steve Pinetti Shares How to Harness Creativity

Kimpton Buzz

Here at Life is Suite, we tell you what to eat, where to travel and how to entertain. But we also like to help you with life stuff – packing tips, jet lag remedies, exercise routines … you know, things that buzz around in the minds of busy people like yourself.

In that spirit, we bring you a new column about harnessing creativity. The sage advice, which you can use at home or on the job, comes from Kimpton’s resident imagination-sparker, Steve Pinetti. Steve has worked for the company for nearly 20 years and recently assumed the title of Senior Vice President of Inspiration and Creativity. In that role, he shares the company culture and creative influences through employee training and workshops.

Take it away, Steve.

Creativity is one of those big words. It means so many things to so many people. A vast number believe it’s a trait you’re born with, like having freckles or being right-handed. But to me, creativity is not necessarily inherited but more of an acquired skill. It’s not something one can turn on and off like a switch. Rather, it’s a general approach to life. It’s who and how you are.

Creativity means seeing — really grasping with all your senses — the things around you, from the color of the late-afternoon sky, to the faded billboard above the parking lot, to the passing bumper sticker on the highway. It’s about taking in aromas, tastes, textures and sounds, and trusting them to whisk your thoughts wherever they may go.

Maybe there have been times you’ve felt “in the zone.” You’re having a moment of clarity and can see just how things will shape up as you let loose and simply follow a train of thought. We’ve experienced this when we’ve come up with a name for a hotel or restaurant. Believe it or not, nobody liked the names Monaco or Palomar when we first mentioned them. But something deep within our team told us the names were right, and eventually others came to the same decision. Today, when we step into a Monaco or Palomar we can’t imagine things any other way. The same goes for some of our restaurants, such as Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago; we came up with them in creative bursts, and we felt we had really hit home runs.Steve Pintetti 2013

Get Started
I find it helps to not worry about rules, norms and boundaries. Instead, I try to be fearless and confident in my ideas.

Easier said than done, right? Luckily, there are things you can do to gain confidence and get creative wheels turning. For a meeting, they might include:

• Showing an object or picture and asking people what they see or feel, depending on the purpose and direction of the meeting

• Sending out the agenda in advance and asking people to think about certain elements of the meeting before they show up

• Encouraging spontaneity and stressing the fact that there are no bad ideas

I also like to let people know that a specific meeting is just to brainstorm and there will be a follow-up meeting to problem-solve. The point is that ideas can germinate and expand over time. My experience is people seem more relaxed and open when they know they are there simply to bounce ideas around without the anxiousness or interference of impending deadlines.

Nurture Your Creative Brain
I sometimes get asked if there are any books, movies or websites I recommend that could help foster creative flow. It’s a good question. But before any outside sources can have a rightful impact, you have to first believe in yourself. That means having an open mind and being aware of limitless possibilities.

Of course I do have favorite go-to sources to keep fresh and on the edge. I regularly read magazines like Fast Company, Ode, Wired, Rolling Stone and GQ. is a great website, and you can also find me cruising around museums, the SXSW music festival, the Vegas consumer electronics show and PIVOT conference.

I also make an effort to break up monotony and get my mind racing in another direction – sometimes literally. For example, on my morning run before work I always try a different route. I also try to travel to work a different way each day, stopping at a different coffee shop, and seeing and meeting new people. If I’m in a cab, I ask it to drive a new way. On my travels, I grab a magazine at the airport that I don’t normally read. And when looking for an opinion about business matters, I may run it past friends outside the office; they are usually more inclined to have an objective opinion or fresh thought.

Accept Change
If you believe creativity breeds success then you have to accept that creativity will eventually lead to change. Generally speaking, change is one of the hardest things for us to swallow. New Year’s resolutions are proof!

Habits can be creativity killers. Case in point: At a recent sales meeting, I asked attendees to switch their watches, rings and wrist jewelry over to the opposite hand. The feeling of discomfort — the change — caused most to switch back by the end of my presentation. Now, this is a pretty basic example. Imagine if you are trying to reposition a brand, come up with a new service or amenity, or completely redesign a business!

At Kimpton, our guests’ values and perceptions are always evolving, so we are constantly looking for ways to evolve with them. We believe creativity drives innovation, and innovation is really the heart of having a competitive advantage.

Above all, the key to being creative is to believe in yourself. Have faith in your ideas and do not be afraid to put up your hand and offer thoughts. That’s even if they are outside the norm – especially if they are outside the norm.

If you think about it, Kimpton was founded on doing the opposite of what everyone else in our industry was doing in the early ’80s when the company was founded. At that time, the trend was to build 1,000-room hotels with huge atrium lobbies. Bill Kimpton, our founder, went in the opposite direction, opening 150-room hotels with chef-driven restaurants. The company was born with creativity as its cultural cornerstone.

Now, with more than 100 hotels and restaurants from coast to coast, we can’t help but feel our pioneering creative spirit has paid off. It furthers my belief that if we all remain open to new possibilities, we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to.

Here’s to creative possibilities!

~ Steve Pinetti




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Andy Furrer says:

    Steve, I love the culture of Kimpton and the article you wrote. It is all about being a bit different, trying new ideas, and stepping into it once in a while.

    Great article. Andy

  2. Nancy Quan says:

    Thank you, Steve! That was a very inspiring, very honest piece of advice on creativity. Keep doing what you do!

  3. Jason Mielke says:

    Thanks Steve for the insight. I too believe that operating within some form of constraint can be the death of creativity. If more businesses took chances like Kimpton the results would be limitless. Anything is possible if you just free your mind and stop worrying about what everybody else is doing. That is the true meaning of being a trendsetter. Thanks
    Jason Mielke (NightPorter- Hotel Monaco Seattle)

    • Steve says:

      Hey Jason thanks for the great comment.
      It has always been about if you can think it we you / we can do it. Start every project, thought, problem solving process with this thought in mind and you find there are less elements in your way than you thought there would be. Sure its not a perfect world and some ideas never make it to the finish but if we start out like every one will make a difference in our success we will continue to be the innovative, disruptive successful entity we are – the Kimpton Nation !!