As we become a more technological society, we’re also becoming a more creative society, because many of the routine tasks that used to take up a lot of time and effort have become automated and we have more time to dedicate to value added projects.
What’s more, technology increases our potential to engage in the types of experiences that lead to greater creativity. We now have access to a wealth and diversity of ideas and – thanks to the democratisation of IT – anyone has the means to put them into practice.
According to consulting firm Forrester, 82% of companies believe that there is a strong connection between creativity and business results. Yet, despite the perceived benefit of creativity, 61% of senior managers do not see their companies as creative. How can organisations turn creativity into tangible business outcomes?
Turning creativity into innovation
First, it’s important to understand that creativity is the prerequisite to innovation. While creativity is about generating novel ideas, innovation is about putting those ideas into practice. Therefore, it’s fair to say that creative companies are also more innovative; they challenge the paradigm by carefully designing every process, from the core of the organisation to the end product.
But as a study by a British university indicated, the vast majority of companies are not doing a good job of translating creative ideas into solutions that improve the business performance. The suggestion is that they’re too focused on current goals and don't take the risks required to turn creativity into profits. As researcher Jing Zhou told Business News Daily, “The assumption is that once the employees demonstrate creativity, firms can translate it to firm-level performance… If you wait for the idea to be ready to be implemented, it might be too late. Managers need to capture promising ideas and then translate them into products, processes and improved customer service.”
Translating creativity into innovation requires some level of risk. The good news is that in the digital world, we can simulate failure cheaply and easily, because technology allows us to experiment before making significant investments. A recent article in Forbes.com argues that because technology drastically reduces the cost of actualising our intent, it actually enhances creativity. Author Greg Satell says, “We can search domains, mix and match ideas and test concepts almost effortlessly. That means we can try out a lot more possibilities and increase the chances of producing something truly outstanding.”
Designing a compelling customer experience is one focus of creative organisations. Yet, in order to succeed, the organisations themselves must create jobs that increase employees’ levels of commitment, as engaged employees will bring more creativity and motivation to work every day. Training and development create a company environment that will change and build employees’ commitment as well as sense of ownership, but ultimately it’s about nurturing out-of-the-box thinking and encouraging experimentation from the bottom-up.
Creative companies stress the importance of collaboration and teamwork, because creativity is often a collective process. Many of these organisations are redesigning the traditional job by encouraging collaboration; focusing on creating a shared purpose and on employees’ needs. All of this allows creativity to be embedded in the culture of the organisation, which means employees will see it as a continuous process rather than a one-time event.
No reward without risk
Creativity leads to new ideas that can disrupt markets and displace competitors. As a bonus, companies that encourage the creation of novel ideas and different ways of working tend to be more resilient and have less resistance to change, as employees know the importance of doing things differently and tend to take more risks.
As well as encouraging a creative culture through their leadership, company leaders need to train line of business managers to recognise a good idea and run with it. This is what leads to improved performance and ultimately a higher likelihood of reaching strategic goals.
To learn more about why innovation is critical to organisational success, and how to innovate successfully, download our complimentary how-to guide: The age of innovation: When change is no longer an option