Creativity in business is for everyone, including you.

Sign on a wall that reads get the creativity flowing

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Snapshot : It’s common to pigeon-hole creativity in business, but that can limit the impact creativity has. It’s more than creative skills like graphic design and writing. It’s more than generating ideas through creative thinking.  In this article, we cover how can businesses tap into a much wider range of ideas and styles. We cover how creativity can be both evolutionary AND revolutionary. 

We’ve previously shared why you should beware anyone who feels the need to call themselves a ‘strategist’. Strategy is something everyone can and should do.

The same logic applies to creativity. 

When someone grabs the title of creative “something”,  they’re saying creativity is up to them and no-one else. And that would miss out on a whole load of opportunities to drive creativity in business.  

The problem with pigeon-holing creativity 

What picture pops in to your head when you think of someone ‘creative’?

If you work in marketing or advertising, you probably have pictures of slightly scruffy advertising creative teams. Something like the agency rebel creatives we described in our article on creative evaluation reviews.

The men all seem too have too much hair, particularly facial hair and / or lots of tattoos. And the women, well, pretty much the same, except for the facial hair. Usually. And their hair is usually dyed multiple colours.  

The way these teams work is usually very different from the way teams in most businesses operate. Even when creative teams and marketing teams who on paper have the most ‘creativity’ in their role meet, it can often end up being a car crash meeting.

Now let’s be clear up front.

We have no issue with these creative professionals. They’re some of the most fun people you can work with, and they need to earn a living too.

For the ones who’ve studied the topic of creativity and who bring this skill and expertise to specific jobs like writing, graphic design and video-making, all well and good. 

But those are all the “doing” parts of creativity. And it’s this grabbing of the word ‘creativity’ by creative teams that rubs us up the wrong way. Because, for us, creativity goes very far beyond just “doing” things.

And this is where we start to run into the issue of creativity being seen as a job that you hand over to a professional to do. Whereas in reality, everyone and anyone in your business can be and should be creative. 

Creativity in business is not art

For us, yes, those outputs from people who can “do” creative are an important part of the business mix. Whether it’s advertising, video content, copywriting or photography, the quality of the outcome goes up when you either upskill yourself or get someone with experience to do it.

You wouldn’t expect a brand manager to produce a TV ad on their i-phone for example, and while they might end up writing some copy for the website, it’d be pretty rare that they’d actually be given any training on how best to do this. 

Young child holding a blue paint tube and squeezing it out

We’ve seen many businesses, and particularly marketing teams where new brand managers are schooled to leave ‘creativity’ to the agency.

Where the training is about the serious business of managing projects and the profitability of the brand, not coming up with ideas on how to make the brand actually work better for its consumers. And this is where creativity in business goes all wrong.

Here’s the thing. 

These creative ‘do-ers’ don’t have a monopoly on the creative thinking that should be the driver of your creative doing

Because creativity in business is also about thinking. And that’s something everyone can do. And not just can do, should do.

Your business growth depends on the ability 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 theoretical models that plays in this space is the Kirton-Adaptive-Innovation model.

We’ve been lucky enough to work with a few businesses who use this model. The thing we really like about it is that it states right up front, EVERYONE is creative. But everyone is creative in different ways. 

We love this.

Right away it eliminates the mistaken belief that ‘creativity’ is only for the hairy tattooed agency mob. It says everyone is creative – along a spectrum. 

Sign on a wall that reads get the creativity flowing

At one end of the spectrum you have people who are good at adaptive problem solving. They are good at taking existing ideas and making them better. Let’s call this the Volkswagen approach to creative thinking. These types of creatives tend to create ideas that are evolutionary

And then you have people who are good at innovative problem solving. These are people who naturally come up with new and different ideas. They are most likely to come up with breakthrough ideas. Let’s call this the Apple approach to creative thinking. These types of people tend to create ideas that are revolutionary

(Also, check out our article on how to apply evolutionary and revolutionary thinking to marketing.)

Which one is better? Answer : Neither

The important point for your business or any business, is that both methods of problem solving are good.

In fact, not just good, necessary. Necessary to come up with a range of different ideas to grow your business. 

The ideas of the Apple-style revolutionary approach tend to make more noise and grab people’s attention. Of course, they do, people get excited by new and breakthrough thinking.

But here’s the thing with breakthrough ideas.

People only remember the ones that work. And to get to the ones that work, you have to go through many, many breakthrough ideas that don’t work and cost businesses a ton of wasted money. 

Who still has an Apple Newton for example? What about Google Glasses?

The challenge with real breakthrough innovation is that you need some failures to generate the big successes. To generate your i-Phone or 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 makes them slightly better each time. And that’s not a bad thing.

Boring for some, maybe. But very profitable and generates future cash flow that helps you fund those more breakthrough projects. 

The Volkswagen Golf might be a bit boring and not actually look that different to how it started. But with seven or eight 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.

Balance your adaptive and innovative thinking

What does this all mean for your business? Well, it’s important to try to find a good balance of different creative thinking styles to solve your problem.

You need to take a portfolio approach to your creative thinking. Combine different styles of creative thinkers to get better results. 

Think about who the great adaptive thinkers in your business are. People that look at an existing problem and tweak it with an existing answer to make it better.

Look for breakthrough thinkers. The ones who generate game-changing ideas. You need adaptive and breakthrough ideas to generate a steady future growth from innovation.  

This all comes to a head when you put teams together to creatively solve problems. Maybe to come up with new ideas for your marketing plan? Or to generate new ideas to be part of your marketing innovation plans? 

The key lesson to learn is make creative in your business for everyoneNot just the hairy tattooed mob.

Check out our guide to creative thinking to find our more on this topic. Or contact us, if you have specific needs on creativity in your business. We understand how to generate both adaptive and breakthrough ideas.   

Photo Credit

Get the creativity flowing Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Kid squeezing paint tube : Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash

Person holding light bulb : Photo by Fachy Marín on Unsplash

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