If I were to ask what the key indicators were in measuring business success, what would you say? Revenue growth? Market share price? How about employee satisfaction? All of these would be completely acceptable – and common – responses.
But where would you rank creativity in the mix? Is it something you might mutter under your breath as an afterthought? Or is it a factor that you wouldn’t think applies to your company at all?
Thanks to a recent study by Adobe, the results are clear and never before have the above questions been so important. Whether your business embraces more light-bulb moments than Thomas Edison or it’s a more rigid affair: creativity can have a significant influence on business performance.
But what exactly is creativity in a business sense? Is it a concept largely reserved for the Steve Jobs-style mavericks? Ordering the staff to ride unicycles?
Ambiguity around the matter might well explain why so few companies interviewed – just 11% in fact – saw themselves as ‘creative’.
Helpfully, respondents in the Adobe survey shed light on the issue.
Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile makes things fairly clear. When applied within organisations, she says, “creativity is the production of novel and useful ideas…” Innovation, she continues, “is the successful implementation of creative ideas within an organisation.”
Another company surveyed elaborated further: “Creative companies create products that give their customers new experiences or add value to their life.” In fact, according to most respondents, companies that embrace creativity are seen as ‘more willing to pursue the unconventional, push limits, and try new things.’
A general consensus after all, then. Not only did most of those surveyed share a broad definition of ‘creative’ companies, they overwhelmingly believed in ‘a strong connection between creativity and desired business results.’
Spanner in the works alert
Something is still awry. The majority of those interviewed agreed on what makes a company ‘creative’. They also believed in a correlation between ‘creativity’ and desired business results. So why did 61% feel themselves to be lacking in creativity? What’s with the disparity?
One of the biggest problems is measuring creativity’s effect on companies. Revenue growth, market share and employee engagement are more easily quantified. Creativity is far more intangible, hence its traditionally marginalised status.
A delicious irony
However, a wider audience is now acknowledging the benefits of a creative workforce. An increasingly popular approach to business – namely ‘design-led innovation’ – is resulting in a domino effect. Organisations are fostering creativity to get ahead of the competition, and in doing so are statistically outperforming their less creative counterparts.
It’s ironic, really. The least measurable factor (creativity) is a major catalyst for regular business parameters: revenue growth, market share and employee engagement. Indeed, the survey examined how much better ‘creative’ companies fared in terms of this holy trinity compared to their peers.
The results are in…
A staggering 58% of self-confessed ‘creative’ companies reported improved revenue compared to their previous financial year. Only a minority of non-creative types responded similarly, with most being outperformed by their colleagues by a factor of more than 3.5 to 1. Meanwhile, 71 respondents that fostered creativity across their businesses achieved ‘exceptional’ results. Companies with creative work environments were ‘three times more likely to win awards.’
Market share also increased in companies who embraced the ‘c’ word. A quarter of those, in fact, enjoyed a leading market position versus competitors. Only 20% of less creative companies achieved similar results.
Interestingly, more of the creative companies won ‘recognition as a best place to work’. Interviewees ‘associated a positive employee work environment as a primary condition for inspiring creativity’. In other words, novel ideas and an open culture will boost employee engagement.
The penny is dropping
Reluctance to pursue a creative mindset in the office is fading. Many companies are prioritising strategies that embrace creativity. New tech investment is one example of this, but the survey provides other basic guidelines:
Setting goals for achieving creative outcomes, fostering collaboration with customers and encouraging creativity from the top down were all fundamental to long-term business success.
So, the question you may need to be asking yourself is: what am I waiting for?