Try to think about a world without creativity. You won’t have to think for too long because the world as we know it would simply not exist. Other than nature, everything you see, read and touch today is the result of human creativity. Think about the computer or Smart Phone you are reading this on; it simply wouldn’t exist without creativity. So what is it and how is it that some people and some companies are better at leveraging it than others?
Creativity invariably has some tangible output; artwork, a sculpture, a photograph, music, a novel, an innovation or an invention. The creation generally has to be both novel and worthwhile.
Since creativity is such a force for the advancement of the human race, are we all capable of it? I believe yes, at some level, however many people limit themselves. How many times have you heard someone say ‘I’m not artistic, I can’t draw or I can’t sing’. Fear of failure limits them and they simply no longer try.
Most businesses today recognise the value of differentiating through innovative products and services and in the way that they approach and promote themselves in the marketplace. Most businesses have outsourced marketing to professional agencies and many have moved from dusty R&D labs to ‘innovation centres’ to promote this change.
A lot of companies try using the ‘two day offsite’. This is generally held in a hotel far away from the work environment where people relax, they dress down, have a nice meal, have a few glasses of wine and then the following day they have a creative workshop. The problem is, on its own, it simply doesn’t work. Typically the flip-charts from these workshops end up rolled up and gathering dust on the top of a filing cabinet when everyone returns to work.
Can you really schedule creativity like this? In a recent study art critics examined a collection of paintings by various artists. 50% of the paintings were commissions and 50% were the artist’s own indulgence. The experts ranked the paintings and without exception the commissions were in the bottom 50%. So to produce stand out work people have to be given the freedom to think creatively without being told to do it in a time window.
Rather than the ‘two day offsite’, businesses need to make better use of ‘the other 363 days’ of the year and create an environment where innovation is the norm and not just a diarised annual event.
Here are three fundamental steps to leveraging ‘The Other 363 Days’:
- You have to create a business environment and set of values that promotes and channels innovation as part of business as usual.
- You have to have a clear business strategy that everyone understands. It should be motivating and create excitement about where the business is going.
- You have to celebrate innovative success and recognize the teams behind it.
Once you have everyone on board with your vision you will suppress the fear of failure, allowing tangible creativity and innovation to grow.
All of this distils down to fearless creativity as the driving force behind the creation of any stand-out business - regardless of how we value our own creative abilities, we all know when something is instinctively right!