On June 23rd, 2000, Paul Allen opened the Experience Music Project (EMP).  In a tribute to his music idol, Jimi Hendrix, Allen smashed a glass Stratocaster guitar and declared, “Let the experience begin!” Now called the “Museum of Pop Culture” or “MoPOP”, the museum is “a leading-edge nonprofit museum, dedicated to the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary popular culture. 




MTV Special on EMP’s Opening on June 23, 2000

Collections, exhibits, and interactive technologies provide a comprehensive experience across music, film, television, literature and video games.  Currently, MoPOP’s largest exhibit ever staged is on display:  MARVEL:  Universe of Super Heroes.  In the world of museums, MoPOP stands alone, but the artifacts inside the museum only tell part of the story. 

Frank Gehry, the legendary architect of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, designed MoPOP with inspiration from rock & roll; in particular, music from Seattle-native Jimi Hendrix.  The building design is undoubtedly unique and stirs up polarizing aesthetic opinions ranging from genius to abhorrent.  Herbert Muschamp’s New York Times wrote that the building “looks like something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over, and died.”

Regardless of one’s opinion on MoPOP’s design, Gehry’s contribution to architecture is undeniable. He embraced creativity in such a meaningful way that buildings created to “hold the art” are now elevated into an actual “work of art” on a stand-alone basis.  You no longer have to walk into the entrance to begin your museum experience, Gehry extended the artistic experience into the public domain.  It’s an impressive feat that coined the phrase, “Starchitect,” and has led many cities on a mission to capture the “Bilbao Effect.” 

Wealth Management Starchitect

Wealth management is moving toward a Frank Gehry-moment.  Historically, advisors have relied on traditional exhibits of financial advice to deliver value, namely: products, services, and charisma. Like fine art hanging on a museum wall, products, services, and charisma can drive demand, but there’s untapped potential when those attributes are contained within a vanilla wrapper.  Embracing creativity provides a platform to extend value beyond the four walls of the office.

Creative Immersion

When immersed into a new environment, the brain’s capacity grows. Think about a time when you traveled to a foreign country and didn’t know the language…your brain’s capacity grew.  Or that moment when a new restaurant opened, and you tasted a different food for the first time…your brain’s capacity grew.  In a Chicago Tribune article, Dr. Paul Nussbaum, clinical neuropsychologist at University of Pittsburgh, identified that new and challenging environments can sprout dendrites that grow the brain’s capacity.  “When you expose your brain to an environment that’s novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts.”

In an increasingly commoditized industry, advisors need to find creative avenues to expand their clients’ engagement on financial goals and well-being. Creativity can create deeper engagement and ultimately, stronger relationships, the ultimate competitive advantage. Consider two advisors in the same town offering the same portfolio and the same planning software at the same price.  What’s the differentiator?  Most will say the person.  That’s partially true.  But what if Advisor A’s branding, office environment, client experience and overall positioning breaks away from the traditional beige go-to-market deployed by Advisor B (C, D, and others)?  The consumer is drawn to what’s different.   





Are you the blue triangle?

Or just another orange circle?


There’s a direct correlation between creativity and differentiation. The more that an advisor takes ownership of that correlation, the stronger their competitive position in the marketplace.  Differentiation will fuel success as the industry reverts to the mean.

Let’s face it, financial services is pretty stodgy.  We continue to push similar initiatives in similar environments and expect different outcomes.  So, how do find your creative breakthrough? To expand your perspective, you’ve got to immerse yourself into fresh ecosystems with unfamiliar conditions to assimilate new ideas.  In these moments, the learning trajectory shifts upward and your capacity to engage new ideas expands. 

Find your energy of self-expression.

When asked about Frank Gehry’s MoPOP design, Jody Allen, co-founder of MoPOP and Paul Allen’s sister said, “We simply wanted a design that brought life to what EMP (MoPOP) is all about:  the creative process, the energy of self-expression through music and culture, and a visitor experience that starts before you walk into the building.”  As the financial service industry transitions into a new era led by shifting demographics and technology advancements, push your boundaries to adopt a more creative-mindset.  You’ll become a better steward of information, a better financial professional, and maybe even a better person.  


A coffee cup’s worth of blog post delivered the first Monday of the month. Grab a dose of creativity and perspective before you hit the bottom of your mug.