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Inspiring Customer Interaction (INTERVIEW)

Scott Helmstedter, Chief Creative Officer at SeaWorld
Gil Haddi
January 13th, 2014
Scott Helmstedter joined SeaWorld as the Chief Creative Officer almost three years ago following his long history in the entertainment industry. Starting his career at Walt Disney and Disneyland Resort, and working in various allocations including theme parks, film and home entertainment, Scott has, in his own words, "experienced the gamut in the entertainment industry." At SeaWorld, Scott is entrusted with the operation of many different facets, with a direct line of oversight to what goes on in the parks including events and all media enterprise activities.

Constantly dealing with many moving pieces, Scott describes his job as "a big job but a very fun job," demonstrating his enthusiasm for his position with his energetic and inspirational attitude. Some projects he has been involved with include two television shows highlighting the animal rescue and rehabilitation projects SeaWorld takes part in.

Three questions with Scott Helmstedter:

1. How do you create a culture of innovation?

In order to foster an innovative culture, we give each group within our organization the desire to be creative and the freedom to follow that creativity. Each of our employees knows that they're here because they're talented and we want them to be here so there is no fear in sharing ideas. There is an open and honest process here, and employees feel comfortable sharing crazy ideas and thinking outside of the box because they know that there are no bad ideas during brainstorm sessions.

One of the things we pride ourselves on is that we give our teams a lot of freedom to explore, and really think outside of the box. We don't place too many constraints on ideation and we make sure to consult experts in the field as well as our own internally generated ideas. With a small core team that oversees all of the creative aspects, we can create a great innovative process within a great work environment.

2. How does your team identify trends and consumer insights?

We identify trends through research, research and more research. Our team is always on the hunt for what is happening in the marketplace and how our consumer experiences wildlife, nature and entertainment. Our in-house research team looks into how our audience interacts with our attractions, exhibits and entertainment in general. We keep tabs on what the competition is doing and what innovations are happening in other industries that we are not yet familiar with. At the end of the day, we're all consumers experiencing the same things our customers experience. We'll go to Vegas, see Broadway shows, watch Cirque du Soleil and head out to see movies and plays for example. While we draw inspiration from what is happening in the entertainment world at large, we don't want to copy anybody. We want to be innovative in our own right so we always put our own spin on everything.

We often bring in experts from various fields including writers, directors, producers, artists, musicians etc. in order to create a complete picture for any given project. If we want to go in a certain direction, we will also look more broadly for experts in that field, reaching out domestically and internationally.

3. What are some of the challenges you face when innovating?

One of our challenges is the oppression of endless opportunities. There are so many things we can and want to do. It becomes a matter of deciding which way we want to go and synthesizing all the ideas being brought in by the creative team to meet our objectives. We pride ourselves on taking ideas and bringing them into fruition, figuring out how we can take a great idea and move it into the next phase so we can actually accomplish it.

We are constantly striving to be better, be more entertaining and be more exciting. We're finding new ways to deliver a more inspirational product to our audience and provide information on animal care and zoological sciences. We strive to enlighten audiences about nature and wildlife and our focus on delivering new and inspirational experiences will drive future innovation.

We have a unique place in the market with respect to what we offer and deliver to our audiences and we only want to get better and better at that. We are always looking for new opportunities and ways to impact people within and outside of the SeaWorld parks.

References: linkedin, seaworld