Why read this? : We explore different approaches to managing creativity in business. Learn how bringing different skills and approaches to creativity makes your business more creative. Read this for ideas on how to expand the effectiveness of creativity in your business.
We’re not big fans of those who call themselves ‘strategists’. Strategy is something everyone can and should do. We feel the same about creativity. Be wary of people with “creative” in their job titles. They’re saying creativity is up to them. And you don’t need to bother with it. We don’t buy into that. You need creativity across your whole business to get results. Creativity isn’t just for people with creative job titles.
Creativity isn't just for creatives
What comes to mind when you think of someone described as ‘creative’?
If you work in marketing, you probably picture some slightly scruffy advertising creative team. Something like the agency rebel creatives from our creative review meeting article.
You think aggressive T-shirts, dubious personal hygiene and an abundance of facial hair and tattoos, right? Then you meet the male creatives and they’re even worse.
These agency creative teams like to work differently. They work differently because they think differently. It’s probably not how teams in your business think or work. And when you get together with them, it can often end up being a car crash.
Now, we’ve got no issue with these creative professionals. They’re usually lots of fun to work with. They have specific creative skills like writing, graphic design and video-making. And that’s fine because you need experts in those skills. But they’re not the be-all and end-all of creativity. Creativity goes beyond what writers, designers and video producers can do for you.
Those are all the “doing” parts of creativity. And it’s this grabbing of the word ‘creativity’ by agency creative teams which rubs us up the wrong way. Because, for us, creativity goes far beyond “doing” things.
Creativity in business is also about thinking
We’ve seen many businesses, where the marketing team are advised to leave ‘creativity’ to the agency.
The boss tells the marketing team to focus on the serious business of managing projects and the brand’s profit and loss. Leave the fun ideas stuff to the agency. You know, like working out how to make the brand work better for customers.
But surely, that’s exactly what marketers should be thinking about. Because without that thinking, there’s no brand and no business.
You can’t let creative ‘do-ers’ have a monopoly on your creative thinking. The whole team need to be involved in the thinking to make sure your creative doing is doing the right things.
Because creativity in business is also about thinking. The more thinking you have, the better the creative ideas you get. Business growth comes from being able to think creatively to find opportunities and solve problems. That’s why creativity in business matters so much.
Creative evolution or revolution?
One of our favourite mental models in this area is the Kirton-Adaptive-Innovation model.
We’ve been lucky enough to work with a few businesses that used it.
We like it because it states up front, that EVERYONE is creative. Just in different ways. We love this.
Right away, it kills the false belief that ‘creativity’ is only for the hairy tattooed mob. The model shows everyone is creative along a spectrum.
At one end, there are people good at adaptive problem-solving. They’re good at taking existing ideas and making them better. Let’s call this the Volkswagen approach to creative thinking. These types come up with evolutionary ideas.
At the other end are those good at innovative problem-solving. They naturally come up with new and different breakthrough ideas. Let’s call this the Apple approach to creative thinking. These types come up with revolutionary ideas. (Check out our evolutionary and revolutionary thinking article for more on this).
Balance your adaptive and innovative thinking
So which is better? Well, it’s not an either / or question. Both methods of problem-solving are good. In fact, not just good, but necessary. Necessary to have a range of different ideas to grow your business. It’s all about finding the right balance to build the right creative culture.
The revolutionary approach makes more noise and grabs attention. Of course, people always get excited by new and breakthrough thinking. But here’s the thing with breakthrough ideas. People only remember the ones which work. And to find those, you have to go through many ideas which don’t work. These failed ideas cost businesses time and money.
Who still has an Apple Newton, for example? What about Google Glasses?
The challenge with real breakthrough innovation is you need some failures to generate the big successes. Learning from your mistakes helps you find bigger and better ideas. To create your equivalent of Apple’s iPhone or Google’s search algorithm. And not Amazon’s Fire phone or Bing’s search algorithm.
And here’s the thing with the more evolutionary approach. It might be boring, yes. But it’s much safer and more predictable. It incrementally builds on existing good ideas. And it makes them slightly better each time. And that’s not a bad thing. Boring for some, maybe. But very profitable. And it generates future cash flow to help you fund those more breakthrough projects.
The Volkswagen Golf might not look that different to how it started. But with 7 or 8 versions, each new version has thousands of incremental and evolutionary improvements. It’s still one of the world’s best-selling cars with over 35 million sold since 1974. That’s a lot of “boring” profit (!) from evolutionary creativity.
Conclusion - creativity in business is for everyone
What does this all mean for your business? Well, finding the right balance means taking a portfolio approach to your creative thinking.
Bring together different styles of creative thinkers in your business to get better results.
Think about who the adaptive thinkers in your business are. People who fix existing problems with practical answers to grow your current business.
This all comes to a head when you put teams together to creatively solve problems. To come up with new ideas for your marketing plan, for example. Or to generate new ideas to go into your innovation planning.
The key lesson here is make to creativity in your business for everyone. Not just the hairy tattooed mob.