Yarrow Kraner is an entrepreneur, director, mentor, and founder of HATCH and CHISEL industries. HATCH is a nonprofit that unites creative leaders for a better world through mentorship in creativity and innovation. CHISEL is a creative firm, idea incubator, social and multi-platform production company.
What's the change you're trying to make in the world?
I'm a creative alchemist and a dot connector. I have a gift for finding creative catalysts and connecting them together to create change. I'm also driven by helping people tap into their superness.
Are you disrupting a market through innovative products or new ways of doing business?
I have ... and will again. In 1999, I founded one of the original social networking sites, which gamified how to make the world a better place. We grew that to 1.5 million people from my garage. Before Facebook and Myspace. We have plans for a new wave of disruption.
What's the biggest change you've made in your career?
It's pretty much always in a state of flux. Rarely the same thing twice - from directing to consulting, to strategy, to collaborating on cool projects that friends are spearheading. One big change was when I moved to L.A. to direct, and just as my career was really kicking into gear I switched tracks to follow the vision of Superdudes, the company I started in my garage. I was convinced that world needed it. It did. Still does.
Speaking of superdudes.com, WIRED magazine referred to it as one of the pioneering social networking communities. So does that make you the original Superdude?
I was the original Superdude, but we were all born SUPER. The secret is tapping into your unique special power to unleash infinite potential, while recognizing your weaknesses, and navigating them with a sense of humor.
Superdudes also had a foundation that worked with national charities and children's hospitals. Sounds like you were a social entrepreneur before social entrepreneurship became cool—yes or no?
I've always wanted to help make the world a better place. I grew up as an only child, with a single-parent mom. I had lots of time to roam and observe families struggling to make ends meet, but keeping a bright outlook on life. We may have been “before” social entrepreneurship had a name, but there have been amazing people doing amazing things for others since the dawn of humanity.
Change is hard—any tricks you'd like to share for making it easier?
Visualization. You will see it when you believe it. The clearer the picutre in your mind, the faster you—and the universe—will manifest that vision.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My biggest weakness is the ability to choose one idea and execute. My mind has constant peripheral vision open, seeing hundreds of “bright, shiny ideas” on the way down the path of executing the one that I started on. Would love to harness a more disciplined “tunnel vision” focus at times. When I do click into that gear, it's powerful, but until I do it sometimes feel I'm watching a penny try to find its slot in a Chinese carnival game.
You left Montana for the bright lights of the big city, L.A., and then returned. What's the best thing about Montana?
Infinite horizons. Big Sky for big dreams. I feel those brought up in Montana have a large capacity for imagining what's possible, and an endless work ethic.
What was the inspiration for HATCH?
HATCH is sort of a Superdudes 3.0—amazing people doing amazing things—and reaching back to help the next generation realize their dreams of becoming pivotal creative leaders of the future.
You say there's a major misconception in our country about the importance of creativity. Why?
It's considered a “nice to have” as opposed to a “must” have. We believe in using the power of CREATIVITY to address profound and seemingly intractable social issues. Through creative design thinking, there is no problem that cannot be solved.
What is the role of HATCH in that equation?
HATCH is a bridge between two powerful forces: using creativity and commerce to catalyze broader thinking, collaboration, and action—to HATCH a better world. Ninety-five percent of 2,000 CEO's polled GLOBALLY identified CREATIVITY as the #1 leadership competency. But creativity in America has declined steadily since 1990, and creativity programs in schools continue to be cut. Many have referred to this as a creativity crisis.
I'm going to twist your arm. Pick the top three presentations or performances you've seen at HATCH.
Every year, there are truly amazing presentations—many of them blow my mind—a few that have moved me emotionally, personally are:
- Will Travis, Traversing the Friction Zone.
- Grammy-winner Patrick Leonard with three music groundbreakers Aaron Howard,Leif Christian, and Courtney Yovich singing Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah.”
- Lisa Maki, on “Taking the Leap of Faith.”
- Several years ago Rajeev Kulkarni blew all of our minds when he first gave us a sneak peek of what was coming with 3D printing (printing out body parts, etc.)
Your LinkedIn profile says you have a specialty in “dream doing.” Is that for real or are you just dreaming again?
I always do what I dream (eventually). Especially when it comes to entrepreneurial ventures. I do dream of endless travel for pleasure—but haven't yet.
What's the backstory on your name, Yarrow?
It's a hippy/artist parents' name - a healing flower that grew in their backyard. I learn more and more about the “legend” of the flower from people I meet: botanists, florists, herbalists, etc. The Chinese use stalks of yarrow in iChing ceremonies to see into the future. It's used in dream pillows, and in Greek mythology yarrow was used to help Achilles become invincible (but missed his heel).
What are you reading right now?
Daring Greatly by Brene´ Brown and Fast Company magazine.
Angus & Julie Stone, Damon Albarn, Capital Cities, Gramatik, Rocket Empire, Ulrich Schnauss.
Who inspires you?
There are sooooo many people. When I cross paths with people who inspire me, I invite them to HATCH. Most of them say yes (eventually). A new friend of mine, Philip Sheppard, never ceases to amaze me. I also just directed Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for a project and he is an authentic human being. He's living life as his true inner real-life superhero, with compassion for those around him.
Full spectrum—not being wishy-washy because it's true—without any one color, the world as we know it would not be the same vibrant ecosystem.
Rock, paper, or scissors?
Paper—blank slate of creativity, fluid, and malleable.
Who are you following online?
Numerous real-life superheroes—from Sir Ken Robinson to John Maeda to Tony Fadell.
Who is the most progressive nonprofit or business leader you know?
Nationally, Tony Hsieh and his Downtown Project. From a non-profit standpoint, it would be HATCH Alum Anne Mahlum, founder of Back on My Feet. Regionally, John and Courtney McKee, founders of Headframe Spirits in Butte, Montana. They are poised to create the largest distillery west of the Mississippi, inject 50 new jobs into the marketplace within the next few years, and have a massive impact on the economic development in Montana.