'Creativity’ takes on an almost mystical, enigmatic form in the business world. We know that creativity can delight and surprise, but can it transform? We believe that creativity is the most valuable asset in any business, no matter the industry. Studies have shown that companies who embrace and celebrate creativity achieve greater revenue growth. It is at the root of what disrupts industries and drives us forward. It is what sets apart one brand, product or service from another. And the beauty of it is that anyone is capable of being creative. Creativity can come in many different forms.
There is a misconception that creativity is a born trait – either you have it, or you don’t. That’s simply not true. Some people are born with certain talents, but we’re all capable of coming up with ideas and solving problems. That is a fundamental human trait that we all possess, and an important message for leadership to communicate.
How can leaders inspire creativity in an organisation?
Far from being an intangible quality, creativity can emerge from any part of the business. It is a discovery process that can be fostered in any organisation, for any industry, to create propositions that are different and valuable in the world. The more often corporate leaders encourage people to approach problems flexibly and creatively, the easier it is to come up with original ideas. To expect creativity in an organisation, one must be a creative leader. Creative leaders inspire, think on their feet, make things happen, impress clients and solve problems. The best creative leaders invent what’s next and shape the future.
What does it take to be a creative leader?
The demands on leadership has never been higher. Leaders now need to be more actively engaged with employees, align company purpose to corporate strategy, and explain how climate change impacts the business, all the while turning a nifty profit. Often underappreciated and easily cast aside, adding creativity to the mix could be the most powerful competitive advantage a business can have.
1) Create an entrepreneurial culture — create a place where people can discover their creative potential and then give them the freedom to run with ideas. Everyone can be creative. An entrepreneurial culture will give people a sense of ownership and the autonomy to come up with flexible and imaginative solutions.
2) Be confident in your lieutenants – surround yourself with good people and adopt a hands-off approach when you need to. A good CEO knows when to step in to fix a problem, but just as important is knowing when to get out of the way and let your people do the job you hired them to do.
3) Don’t be afraid to revise, refine and reject – create work that thrills you. If the idea, concept or solution isn’t working, don’t be afraid to start again and get the idea to its simplest form. As George Lois, the original ‘Mr. Big Idea’ of advertising said, “When you present an entrepreneurial idea, if it takes more than three sentences to explain it to the money guys, it’s not a Big Idea!”.
4) Get things back on track – even the best fail, but it’s the getting back up that matters. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts”. A creative leader will understand the balance between problem-solving and imagination, find ways to inspire the troops when morale is low and get things back on track.
As the world becomes increasingly complex, creativity will become an even more important tool for the success of any company as a differentiator and as part of corporate culture. And so is creative leadership. This applies to CEOs, producers, marketers, customer service reps – not just people who have “creative” in their job titles. It’s not about doing creative work – it’s about approaching the work you do creatively. Without creativity, problems and challenges would seem insurmountable because the same prescriptive solutions would get us nowhere.
By Kay Kayachith
Kay is a Senior Consultant with Radley Yeldar helping clients to tell their stories in print and online through strategic advice, audience-led insights and tailored communications.