Why focus on creativity in business? What are the advantages? How does creativity help your company grow?
As a creative professional who started a creative company, I dreamed about the company being full of creativity, across the board. Creativity is our business.
We hire artists and video editors who are, by definition, creative. Mission accomplished.
But we also hire business development team members who, when hired into a company with creatives, go out of their way to disclaim how not creative they are.
It is easy to relegate creativity to the “creative people”. So how can that creativity translate across a company? And is that necessary?
I wanted to learn more about the advantages of creativity in business and what, if any, tangible effect it has on business success when I came across these two reports by Forrester Research.
Creativity from the Board Room to the Break Room
This is a tale of two Forrester Research reports released over the past 5 years exploring the advantages of creativity in business. The titles alone tell a story about the perception business has on creativity and the difficulties faced in becoming creative.
In the 2014 report, Forrester encourages creativity with a carrot.
In the 2019 report, they went with a stick.
The Creative Dividend
The 2014 report is titled “The Creative Dividend”. The title highlights the advantages of creativity and summarizes a strong causation between organizations that ‘embrace creativity’ and success. In no uncertain terms the report spells out that companies that fostered creativity saw higher revenue growth than their peers.
And when it came to getting recognition for being a “best place to work”, creative companies outperform their peers, making it easier to hire the best people in their industry.
Forrester lays out some high value incentives for any organization to become more creative, but it’s citing creativity as an advantage.
The Cost of Losing Creativity
The 2019 report headline is much saltier, “The Cost of Losing Creativity.”
In this report Forrester raises the stakes. Creativity is put at the very center of an organization’s strategy for growth. It’s not a nice-to-have, or simply a market advantage.
A lack of creativity will sink you.
A lot can happen in 5 years and there’s a couple things that interested me about finding and reading these two reports, aside from the drastic change in headlines.
The first has to do with our preferences, as humans, for creativity.
Creativity is about the opportunity to see something new, make something new, or do something in a new way. Our brains are wired for differentiation and if employees and consumers have a choice, they’ll chase those experiences.
Forrester’s 2014 and 2019 reports are emphatic that organizations that endeavor to show something new, make something new, or do something in a new way will be the ones to survive the next 5 years.
The second and most important thing is the set of behaviors Forrester highlights for companies to be more creative. Where should a leader put their time, attention and funds to grow creativity in their business?
Gamble on Something New
A lot of emphasis in the 2014 report is placed on backing bold and new ideas, and rewarding those efforts regardless of success or failure. Green-light the ideas and experiments of your team, trusting that the people at the forefront will gain valuable knowledge to be applied to the next project.
Sometimes it’s about not having a cookie cutter, safe solution and allowing the collaboration between employees and the customer to travel in unexpected directions. It’s understandable that efficiency and timelines are in place to ensure profitability, but at times the cost of a path less travelled is recouped in the discovery of better methods and unique experiences.
In the same vein, allowing team members to work at the forefront of the curve with new technology and tools, generates a feeling of creativity and excitement in many people’s day to day.
While the previous examples feel like a lot of ‘letting go’ of control to foster creativity, Forrester also suggest formalizing creativity.
A simple step is to schedule space and time for brainstorming, ideation and discussion. Start with the ideas that come out of your team and customer experiences and act on some of them.
If creativity isn’t a strength of leadership, hiring someone who knows how to foster creative discussion, innovation and projects could be the answer.
Creativity still requires inputs, data, and direction to respond to insights and a professional creative officer or creative direction can guide that creativity into the right places. The right person in a position like that will be the most effective and can signal to your team a strong commitment to creativity in your organization.
Customer Experience is Tantamount
In the 2014 report, investment in a creative customer experience was on the list of ways to improve the creative culture of the company. In the 2019 report, it’s the number one area that an organization should be focus on.
From the moment of contact, the customer experience should be unrecognizable in comparison to your competition. Formulaic approaches to messaging, digital communication, and product development has created a stagnant environment. That’s the reason creativity in the customer experience is highlighted as the best path towards growth.
Hubspot suggests illustrating your customer journey so that your employees have a roadmap to align to.
Shifting Importance of Creativity in Your Business
At first glance, the titles of these two reports, spanning 5 years of studying creativity in business, seem like a change in tone.
But inside the reports is a continuation of a story that matures and zeroes in on the core of business today. Providing a market-defining, customer-centric experience that seizes market share and accelerates growth is rooted in nurturing, funding and promoting creativity, from the billboard (really?!?!) to the boardroom to the break room.
There are significant and tangible ties between creativity and business success. The good and the bad is that there isn’t just one way to achieve creativity, but that means there’s not a solid roadmap.
But in these reports there are certainly some large blinking sings pointing us in the right direction. At the heart of it is people, with creativity as the fuel to inspire and motivate the best work and customer experience they can muster.
Through these two reports, I learned about the importance of creativity across our company – something that, as I mentioned, can be easy to silo when you have a “creative company”. We will be reviewing these lessons with our team and evaluating what is working for us and where we can improve.
When you are making your next quarterly plans or setting goals for your business, consider how to bring creativity into the mix. The advantages of creativity – in the customer experience, the evolution and experimentation of your products and services, and the encouragement of everyone on your team to be creative are the future of business.