The Business of Creativity

business of creativity

There’s a lot of wisdom available about adding creativity to your workplace, and rightfully so. Modern businesses have a lot to gain from incorporating new, diverse, and innovative ideas into problem-solving, team-building, office design, and more.  But what does a business look like when it not only promotes creativity, but thrives on it?

Michael Boezi believes there are two ways to “succeed as a creative in business”. You either have to be a business or to help a business. To be a business, Boezi argues, is to recognize that one’s creativity isn’t just a hobby. A person’s creativity provides value that merits compensation. It also requires the creative to overcome preconceptions of business as “aggressive” and fixated only on “crushing the competition”.  They must also realize that they are not “sellouts” just because they’ve tried to monetize their creativity.

To be a business, the creative must “get into a business mindset,”. They have to modulate their thinking to focus on an overall strategy, an online foundation, outreach plans, and conversion plans. The only way to be successful as a creative is to behave like a successful businessperson/business organization.

When it comes to helping a business, you’re in luck.

According to Boezi, “creativity has never been more in demand in the business world,” and it will be creatives left standing when, as Boezi predicts, “the ad model dies”.  That model provides near-worthless commercials and pop-up ads, stock images, and other marketing techniques that are increasingly ignored. This leaves the door open for creatives with meaningful ideas to help businesses.

When a marketing or sales initiative can educate, inspire, enlighten, or entertain through the stirring of emotion, it has a much higher chance of success.  Boezi predicts that the person who can create this kind of high-quality content for a business will be a secret weapon for future businesses.

Creative Work has Rewards Beyond Financial

Heather Martin goes a little further than Boezi in describing the rewards of creativity in business. She points out that financial success isn’t the only reason people engage in creative businesses and individual creative pursuits.  Martin says that while “we have the right to ask for our rewards,” for her, “expression itself is now its own reward”.  

Her sentiment dovetails well with Boezi’s instructions. It also illuminates one of the ways that will likely always distinguish creative businesses from more conventional ones. Often, satisfaction in creative businesses comes from the work itself.  

This, of course, does not mean that a person working in a conventional position cannot enjoy their position. It simply points out that many creatives have more incentive to work for the work’s sake. We can extrapolate this to think about workplace cultures. It stands to reason that the more employees feel excited for not just their paycheck but their responsibilities, the more positivity and engagement one will see in the workplace.

The Business of Creativity Thrives in Collaboration

Another way the business of creativity works and thrives is through collaboration. According to Noah Khan of TBWA, interviewed by In Focus, “seeing things very differently to conventional thinking… and trying to create brave, incredible work” are the kinds of goals that can only be achieved through collaboration with diverse thinkers.  

Khan’s advice makes good sense, and not just in terms of collaboration between creatives. Remember Boezi’s exhortation to get into a business mindset to achieve success as a creative business/businessperson?  That can be difficult for someone on their own, especially without experience in the business world yet. But with the help of some more conventionally-thinking business personnel, the synthesis of creativity and financial reality is much easier.

Today’s Businesses Must be Creative

It’s increasingly difficult to find a business that has absolutely no creativity, and it’s similarly difficult to find a business that operates in a purely creative manner.  Collaboration—especially collaboration intended to bring diversity of thought—in a creative business means hiring more than just creatives.  It means populating your workplace with a mix of skillsets. Creatives do their best to be in a business mindset. And non-creatives work to assist and ensure the creatives’ work is profitable and sustainable.

The Business of Creativity is Empathetic

Finally, the business of creativity is an empathetic one. In Khan’s words, “We develop audience understanding and build our thinking around the end user”.  This focus on user experience might make you think of design thinking—and it should.  Both design thinking (specifically) and creative business practices (generally) focus product design and marketing efforts on the customer. Not purely on the CEO’s vision.

The deep audience understanding that Khan refers to comes through market research and careful analysis of buying trends, customer preferences, and needs.  This kind of focus not only promotes the creation of successful, desirable products in a competitive business environment—it affords the creative business a serious advantage.

With continuous customer focus and innovative approaches, the business of creativity is the business of the future, not just the present.

Other businesses may focus solely on what’s needed today. The creative business is concerned with needs that will arise in the future.

So, then, what does the business of creativity look like? 

It looks like a different set of rewards, a different approach to being a businessperson, and a different approach to problem-solving and design through collaboration.  But, then again, it looks a lot like other businesses—no business, after all, is only one thing, and all require a diversity of skillsets to be successful.

To become a business or help a business, a creative must embrace the financial realities—and possibilities—of their efforts.  The business of creativity involves recognizing the value of these efforts and ensuring that customers receive great, even unanticipated content, and that its creatives are compensated for their work.  It’s collaboration of the highest degree, for forward-looking and competitive businesses.