Creativity refers to “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something new”, so surely creativity should be considered a highly valued attribute of both individuals and organisations? Yet, from what I have witnesses, creativity remains painfully untapped in many organisations. Why is it so rare to see the word creativity used in a job ad, unless it is in reference to a creative industry such as advertising or design? This question can even be asked when assessing a company’s vision or mission statement, where even the ‘creative’ companies often don’t wave the creative flag in their own corporate positioning. Having, and importantly utilising, people who can think creatively working within an organisational culture that actively promotes creativity can lead to a sustained competitive advantage. It really can.
Coming from a design background, I have been fortunate enough to have worked among people who can not only look at a challenging issue from multiple perspectives, but also work collaboratively within a group to find the best solution. This way of working was imbedded in us at design school – take a problem, consider the approach, develop ideas, have peers review them, give and receive constructive criticism and ultimately present the final solution in way that could be understood by the target audience. As this was standard practice for me, I have taken for granted the opportunities I was presented with to use out of the box thinking and the ability to work in a well supported team where creative problem solving was openly celebrated. And, after seeing the challenges faced by many companies, across different industries who don’t work like this, I have never been more clear in seeing how operating in a more creative way can help breakdown some of the barriers that prevent the full optimisation of skills and resources within these organisations.
It is remarkable to me how a ‘traditional’ organisational structure limits and in some instances, cripples the ability for people to be creative and in turn stiffles workplace creativity. As a huge advocate for workplace creativity I have identified a few areas where creativity can be an essential component in delivering successful outcomes for (pardon the buzzwords):
Innovation relies on creative thinking. If we keep doing things the way they’ve always been done it doesn’t necessarily mean we will always get the same results. The one certainty is change, if organisations fail to change they will soon become redundant.
Creativity and collaboration go hand in hand. Collaboration is a huge factor behind the introduction of open plan and flexible work environments. Knowledge retention is fast becoming a high priority for organisations who realise the value of tacit knowledge (the bit’s not written down). Collaboration is a way of ensuring knowledge can be transferred.
Maintaining a competitive edge
Product development is not the only way a company can maintain a competitive edge, value propositions, client segments, distribution channels among others can be looked at creatively in order to ensure a competitive edge is maintained.
It is becoming more relevant in the professional services sector and as the baby boomers reach retirement that company founders need to work out how they can extract the most amount of value out of their businesses ahead of retirement. Often this requires a completely different way of looking at how the business is structured and how it operates. Solving these issues will require a level of creativity, tackling this issue collaboratively will inspire future leaders to continue to invest in the company.
Your Company’s Story
The story behind the way your company operates is fast becoming the focus of many marketing communications and public relations strategies. Having “creativity” as a core business focus can be a huge competitive advantage. It is rare that creativity is discussed and examples of Apple, Google and 3M are not offered as examples. Business index lists focussing on the most enviable companies, most innovative companies and best employers often have the common thread of staying ahead of their competitors through creativity. By operating creativly through “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something new” organisations can approach things differently than their competitors from Innovation, collaboration, maintaining a competitive advantage to succession planning.
Creativity is not a talent, it’s a skill and it should be a way of operating. If you want to assess your company’s creativity potential or get the ball rolling on encourating a more creative workplace, give us a call, we’d love to help you with achieve your goals.
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