Corporate Creativity... fact or fluff?
Written by David Jackson – Creative Consultant
Over the past few decades and in particular, the last few years, the corporate sector’s obsession with creativity has exploded. We’re enamoured with the idea of it, sprinkling the word around like glitter on a preschool masterpiece. The term ‘creativity’ is used as a key differentiator, a lure to prospective clients and team members, and a shorthand way to communicate ‘we’re not like other companies’. Which, of course, is debatable if everybody is saying it.
Organisations may claim creative prowess as the key pillar of their business, but merely pay lip service with vague slogans and clichéd sentiments. Using creativity to unlock potential, anyone?
More often than not, the substance behind such claims lacks nuance, depth and execution. And it’s not going unnoticed. Despite the collective reverence for the creativity gods when it comes to goal statements and values, in practice, us mortals are increasingly likely to roll our eyes when the bigwigs announce, ‘another wacky team-building exercise’.
The surface level ‘creative approaches’ are a bit of a con, trying to convince audiences/ participants that the relevance of the exercise is more impactful than it truly is. A sugar-coating, if you will, to sell a service that lacks measurable impact, authenticity and financial benefit to organisations.
But this isn’t unique to the corporate world. Creative industries (think theatre, performing arts, design, TikTok) aren’t immune to this kind of tokenistic creative name-dropping. Lloyd Newson, from DV8 Physical Theatre, emphatically states that audiences should be refunded their tickets if the synopsis of the work does not accurately represent the product. In other words, it needs to do what it says on the tin.
A question that does need to be asked is, can creative practices, devices and processes actually bring about behavioural change? Or is it all just pretty packaging or an exotic accent on an otherwise run-of-the-mill program? In short, yes it can. However, it requires more than quirkiness, a game of hop-scotch or an edgy rebranding. To actually have an impact, a creative approach needs deep thought, experimentation, interrogation and most importantly, time and investment.
6 steps to creative success
- Be specific. When implementing a bespoke activity or program, ensure it is tailored, nuanced and empathising with the audience. Who are they? What’s in it for them and why should they care?
- Look beyond the first thought. First ideas are great as first ideas, but they are even better as springboards for interrogation, process and development. In a well-written novel, the layers and complexity of the story are what makes you read on. It’s time to move beyond first thoughts. Challenge the simplistic creative device, call out tokenistic and/or irrelevant approaches and lean into what a rich creative process can really do for our teams, our workplaces and what we can offer the world.
- Be bold. When it comes to creativity, experimentation is always preferable to sticking to the status quo. Give yourself and your team permission to explore, push boundaries, and delve into new territories, without the pressure to succeed in neat or predictable ways. As Samuel Beckett implored, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
- Engage an outside eye. Consider bringing somebody on board who can view your idea/product/service with an objective lens. A fresh perspective can identify inconsistencies, give you insights into potential audience responses and most importantly, help you ensure there’s a throughline between the truth you’re trying to communicate and the audience’s experience. The integrity of the act and exchange with the audience is everything.
- Involve the whole team in the creative process (see our previous blog). The process needs to be integrated, lived and breathed by the team. Without complete buy-in, it will lose its power. This is not to undermine the virtuosic nature of creative professionals, but to empower the whole team to be their best, contribute their unique perspectives and engage in robust teamwork.
- Invest resources and time to the creative process. Just like organisational psychologists need time and resources to dive into the deep-seeded reasonings behind behavioural trends, the creative process in which a program or intervention is designed, needs just as much rigour and prowess to have the desired impact.
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