We sat down with Holly Birnbaum, one of the founders of Thoughtly Crew, to ask about Creative Thinking Agents, consumer market research groups, and partnering with Catalyst Ranch.  Here’s what she said!



  1. Who is Thoughtly Crew?

Thoughtly Crew, the world’s first independent pool of creative consumers, was launched in 2005 by Holly Birnbaum, Scott Cheney and Gabrielle Sutton, who together have more than 60 years of combined experience in creative problem solving. Today, our hundreds of trained, vetted and insightful Creative Thinking Agents, Artists and Experts enhance all aspects of ideation and co-creation. Our network of Creative Thinking Agents extends to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis and beyond.



  1. How did you get into this business?

When working as a writer in public affairs back in the ‘90s, I would “call in well” from time to time when I was booked for an ideation session – it was magic, and I was hooked!  My future partners and I met during that time, and we wanted to do more ideation more often for more clients, so we formed Thoughtly Crew, took the pool independent, and grew what was once a small proprietary group of creative consumers into our national network of hundreds of Creative Thinking Agents, Artists and Experts.


  1. What is the most fascinating part of your business that people wouldn’t know about?

Creative thinking is contagious! Once you get going, the energy ricochets around the group as you build out ideas and concepts.  When everyone gets into the flow, there’s really no end to what you can generate, particularly when working with a gifted ideation facilitator. Until the advent of consumer ideation and co-creation, end-users weren’t in on early stage innovation and development. Today clients can benefit from consumer insights they never might have even considered so far upstream, as well as session development and support.


  1. What is a Creative Thinking Agent?

First and foremost, they are consumers, who also are adept at capturing end-user insights and attitudes, in person and online, from fieldwork to session work. Rigorously trained and vetted, they are positive, energetic, playful, professional and articulate, delivering blue-sky thinking through to fully realized concepts.


Our pool of Creative Thinking Agents comprises all geographical, age, cultural and social demographics – motivated by the challenge of creative problem solving. Our people are quick learners, and include Boomers, Millennials and GenXers; moms, dads and empty nesters; techies, foodies and sports enthusiasts… and more.


The typical Creative Thinking Agent is a fearless, poised and relentless person with a wide range of passions and interests.  CTAs are emotionally intelligent and insightful, and because of their engaging personalities, they evoke the best creative thinking out of everyone else too.


  1. Why should a consumer market research group consider using Thoughtly Crew’s services?

To answer that one, the words of one of our clients probably put it best: 

“It’s altogether something else to find people who can dig into themselves and talk about why. In any given project, you might find a few of these folks, and their opinions really help bring findings to life. It was not until I started working with Thoughtly Crew that I was confronted with having a room full of these people. It was an awesome experience. They’re the best group ever. Anywhere.”


  1. Can you give an example of something wonderful that unexpectedly came out of a session? A product or service totally unrelated to the original session?

If I told you, I’d have to knock you off.  Seriously, all of our work is strictly confidential, so I am not at liberty to disclose anything like that!  That said, we work so far upstream in the process – at the “fuzzy front end” – that multiple outcomes can emerge out of the hundreds of ideas, concepts and insights generated in just one day with Creative Thinking Agents, Experts and Artists.  What’s wonderful is for us to see that telltale twinkle in our clients’ eyes as we attack a problem and discovering new angles they’d never considered.


  1. What’s your favorite thing about partnering with Catalyst Ranch?

The candy! The excellent supportive resources:  Great spaces with markers, pads, post-its, toys, silly hats, helpful Ranch Hands, amazing food and drink, comfy fun cozy places to cogitate, create and dream up new approaches. The Ranch provides the setting and we provide the juicy-brained people. Oh, and did I mention the candy?


  1. What is your favorite saying?

Everyday people can have uncommon ideas.