Organizations, large and small, spend a lot of time thinking about leadership and team building. For the right reasons. Treat your employees well, coach and mentor them, and they will treat your customers well in return. Companies like Chick-Fil-A and Marriott International have cultures that focus on the well-being of employees and are known to have lower staff turn-over and happier customers.
What often gets lost in the discussion about leadership, is the importance of creativity. Here are 5 ways creativity is essential to your business.
Creativity Creates Opportunity
In 1944, the outlook for Italy’s Piaggio looked grim. Their plant had been destroyed by bombing, the Italian economy was in disarray and the roads in Italy were in such bad conditions, automobile travel was difficult. Faced with these challenges, Piaggio engineers looked for a creative way to allow the masses to get around…the Vespa scooter was born.
Arts do not have a monopoly on creativity. There is creativity in science, in engineering, in business. Creativity makes you look for answers beyond the known spectrum, it makes you take the road less travelled. Along this road, sometime lies opportunity. Encourage creativity in your business, in your operations, at head office, in the field, at all levels, and let the opportunities take shape and bubble up to the surface.
Creativity is a Competitive Advantage
Dyson did not set out to make yet another vacuum cleaner, another fan, or another hair dryer. It set out to make something radically better. In the words of Jake Dyson, who invented a light future that burns for 40 years before it needs to be replaced:
“Improve the way everyday products work […] develop intelligent machines that solve problems and support your well-being.” – Jake Dyson
Creativity is a competitive advantage. Why would I buy a regular fan, when I can buy one that is quiet, safe and looks amazing? I will even pay 2 to 3 times more for a fan that was creatively engineered. Unleash creativity, it will transform your business.
Creativity Creates Many Misses…and the Occasional Hit
I love reading about failure. I really do. Not because I take satisfaction in anyone’s failure, but because I accept it as necessary. Google has a long documented “graveyard” of failed products. So does Amazon. Yet, a graveyard of creative products is necessary. The impetus to experiment is necessary and underpins the creative process. Without the creative energy that went into creating failed products like Google Glass or Google+, we wouldn’t have Gmail, Android or Waze.
In the long run, a brand cannot sustain itself on one or two hits, no matter how big. A brand sustains itself from the sustained desire to innovate, to apply creativity, to build the “next big thing”. Your business is just the same. Create and experiment. Show your customers new ideas or a new approach. Try. Misses are the necessary price you pay for the occasional hit and for long term sustainability.
Creativity will Define Your Brand as Imaginative and Innovative
Growing up in Paris, France, I was often puzzled by the impracticality of some designer clothing from the big fashion houses of Paris. Who actually wears this? As it turns out, not everything on display is there to be bought or worn. Some pieces are just statements. They create a halo effect for the designer or the brand, who is then able to sell more pragmatic (and more affordable) pieces to more people. The car industry does this too. Ford does not make money on the GT40 but how many cars has Ford sold because it has inspired car fans with the GT40 or its performance at Le Mans?
The point is not to regard the output of creative ventures solely from the standpoint of returns. Creativity creates a halo effect, that is brand-building and pays long term dividends on how customers perceive your brand.
Creative Employees are Happy Employees
I opened the post with the premise that happy employees make happy customers. According to a study by the Journal of Positive Psychology, engaging in creative activities contributes to an “upward spiral” of positive emotions and psychological well-being. People like to create! They like to build new things, to contribute. A culture that embraces creativity is a culture that embraces humanity, and people’ natural aspirations to be creative.
A Word of Caution…Creativity Cannot be Bottled.
Creativity is inherently imperfect, unpredictable and somewhat random. Here is a mental exercise. Sit back in your chair and be creative for 10 minutes! Come on, think of something new! [10 minutes later]. Did that work? Probably not. You cannot force creativity; it will come when the right moment comes. It could be triggered by an experience, a moment when you are not “working”, a song, even a dream. You need to accept it and embrace it. You cannot measure creativity, nor can you make it a target (creativity KPI…#fail). However, when it does come, it can be transformative.