By Royann Dean
Back in March 2020, when the world was trying to figure out how to deal with the pandemic and the economic fallout it caused, governments were busy creating committees of their best and brightest to find solutions to a phenomenal challenge. In The Bahamas, an economic recovery committee was formed. The word “creativity” was bandied about by the government as something that was going to be a part of how the recovery would take place.
In practice, it seems to have been relegated to the creative economy subcommittee of the economic recovery committee. The creative economy was essentially composed of cultural activities, arts and crafts, but was later amended to encompass a broader definition of creative industries that includes marketing, graphic design, architecture, etc.
What is missing from the overall conversation about economic recovery to this day is encouraging creativity as a way of thinking in business rather than putting it in a silo.
The definition of creativity sheds some light on my theory. A common definition of creativity is:
“The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc…originality, progressiveness or imagination.”
It is clearly not something that should be limited to the realm of people who are in traditional cultural and creative disciplines.
I would be remiss not to mention that the pillar of running a good business is operational efficiency but the ability to do the things described in the definition can be found in any business book as part of a successful strategy. Nevertheless, there is a tendency in business circles to consider creativity as something frivolous, an add-on to the serious stuff that the people who wear suits do. No shade to my suit-wearing friends. Well, maybe a little…
Creativity is a vital business skill
Consider the paragon of business strategy, the Porter’s Five Forces model.
One can argue that creativity undergirds all of the forces of this model, thereby potentially enhancing a competitive advantage. Without creativity, however, businesses use other forces as a major part of the growth strategy. In addition to competing on price rather than value, the tactics lean towards lobbying to increase the barriers to entry for other businesses, decreasing the potential for substitutes and limiting the power of the customer. So, while some espouse the idea that small and medium-sized enterprises are the engine of the economy, the general lack of creative thinking in business reduces the overall potential of private sector-driven economic development. The de facto result is an oligopoly and, ultimately, an oligarchy.
It’s important to emphasize that creativity is not just for marketing. It is for leadership and business growth.
Think of your favorite companies. I bet that the one thing they have in common is that they cultivate creativity as part of the organizational culture and likely have support for creativity from the C-suite.
Research shows that companies that encourage creativity in culture, people, processes or platforms outperform competitors on revenue growth and market share and stronger leadership.
Creative thinking lends itself to valuable and practical problem solving in business.
Organizations that support this way of thinking perform better because they encourage creativity from all of their employees, creating an environment in which it is acceptable to take risks and providing an opportunity for ideas to come from every level of the company. That kind of creativity is what sparks the imagination and creates new connections. It’s how new, progressive partnerships, products and services start.
Need to think about it a little more? Consider taking a workshop on risk-taking that corporations like Nike and Adobe have taken.
Or get your team members to step up their creative thinking with a remote working year — the travel kind, not the work-from-home kind; you’re probably good with that one already.
The point is to think about it but to not overthink it. Companies that embrace creativity will be the ones more likely to be sufficiently agile, enabling them to traverse the downturn, identify opportunities that others miss and be around for the recovery.
The bottom line is that creative thinking in business is about the bottom line.
Royann Dean is the managing director of ONWRD Advisors, a digital solutions, communications and design agency in Nassau. Find out more at www.onwrdtogether.com. Follow her on LinkedIn @RoyannDean.