Why Creativity Drives Successful Transformations Forward, Faster.

written by Gabrielle Harris, Interchange CEO

Gabe sits by a window, she is smiling directly at the camera and wearing a light green top.

No matter what happens to us in our working lives, we always need to remember that we are dealing with people. People want to get out of bed in the morning for a reason. They want to feel joy, feel the almost childlike curiosity within business, explore ideas, have fun, and solve problems in pursuit of a goal. So, when we are trying to lift business and cultural performance, we need to use creative approaches to evoke emotions and tap into what truly makes people tick. 

Throughout my career in management consulting, I have witnessed professionals use processes to try and spark major cultural change. In response to a major problem – such as a safety breach or a drop in customer satisfaction – leaders are often responsible for a new blueprint to relay across the entire organisation. 

While business decisions are purely rational ones, the reality is that emotions are one of the most pervasive and predictable drivers of human behaviour. In fact, many psychological scientists now argue that emotions are, for better or worse, the dominant driver of most meaningful decisions in life.  

People, Profit and Purpose All Need to Align 

I launched Interchange because it seemed natural to me that management consultants should connect with people’s emotions to drive major cultural transformation in workplaces. Rather than telling people what to do, we could use creativity to help them emotionally connect with a compelling reason to change. 

Rather than waiting for a major catalyst to embark on a cultural transformation, could we act more proactively to constantly align our purpose, strategy and culture with the dynamic stakeholder pressures that impact business performance and profitability? 

Interestingly, the Business Roundtable superseded its agreement that corporations exist principally to serve shareholders in 2019. It set a new modern standard for corporate responsibility, acknowledging that individual companies share a fundamental commitment to all their stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.  

Profit and purpose have never been more tightly intertwined. Why? Because people power businesses and we’re constantly dealing with people. 



Magic Happens When Art and Science Collide 

Businesses tend to use tangible metrics – such as employee satisfaction – to measure performance. They might then put in new systems, structures and processes to influence culture. However, they end up struggling to change it.  

What is often missing is the intangible work that taps into human motivation. When you empower teams with a voice and give them a purpose that they can connect to, you can spark transformative change. However, there is an art to creating tailored and unique solutions that drive meaningful change. 

People, along with their behaviours, values, and mindsets impact workplace interactions and how decisions are reached. So, if we want to drive meaningful cultural change that boosts business performance, then we have to acknowledge this duality in which organisational culture exists. C-suite executives and senior leadership teams are not just their positions. They are people too and leaders who are able to communicate their personal approach to their teams and are the ones who can instigate change faster and better in my experience.  

We can drive change through process, but only to a certain extent. As our Creative Director, Chris Gabardi constantly explains, “If we really want a business to deliver on its purpose and drive its strategy, we need to use human-centred approaches to help every person recognise their own role in driving change. Every stakeholder needs to feel engaged, excited and inspired enough to want to see the business succeed.” 

Through Interchange, I have been lucky enough to witness creativity bring science to life, unlocking its value in people’s working lives and beyond. Here is how: 

Creativity Makes Our Purpose Crystal Clear 

Your organisation’s purpose should be the target on the wall that everyone can focus on. It is the impact that the business wants to make on the world and every employee should feel emotionally connected to a reason for achieving it.  

Of course, most businesses aim to make a profit. However, the bottom line is not what encourages employees to get out of bed in the morning. Leaders have to find a more inspiring force to bring an entire group of people together with purpose, then the profit will follow. 

While Henry Ford’s introduction of the conveyor belt in the assembly plant reduced the Model T’s production time to ninety minutes, workers began to leave the Ford Motor Company to work for their competitors. They found the assembly line work boring as they were now doing only one or two tasks, instead of working to build an entire vehicle

Case in point: no matter how efficient they are, if leaders cannot articulate the big picture, they will struggle to inspire other people to work towards it. And if the workers can see the finished product they are contributing to, it has an impact on productivity.  

We can use science to measure a company’s shared understanding (or misunderstanding) of its purpose. However, in order to explore, articulate and connect with it, we often need to deploy creative, human-led facilitation and design techniques.  

Immersive Experiences Inspire People to Explore Their Own Role in Delivering a Strategy 

Strategy encompasses the clearly defined ideas about how a business will deliver on its purpose. Often, a new strategy will ask people to change. They may need to follow a new process, or they may need to change deeply held beliefs and behaviours. 

No easy feat. 

If we want to drive that evolution collectively, we need to create immersive experiences that will open people’s minds to change. For example, if business leaders are disconnected from frontline staff, then we often need to drop them into the same environment to give them an understanding of what a day in the life of another team member feels, sounds, tastes and looks like. 

Colourful experiences give workers something to empathise with and respond to. Rather than being told what to do, they get to explore their own thoughts and feelings about a situation or idea, then come to terms with a new way of being. 



Experiences and Actions Build a Shared Understanding of Culture 

Leaders are often confused by culture, because so much of it is anchored in unspoken behaviours, mindsets and social patterns. It cannot be read and it is not codified. It needs to be seen and felt. 

One small aspect of culture is the systems, processes, structures and policies that define the rules of engagement within a business and its wider ecosystem. However, the more influential variables are the values, behaviours and interpersonal interactions exhibited throughout the workforce.  

As a result, ‘culture’ often goes mismanaged or relegated as a secondary business concern.  

However, it is often the culture of an organisation that encourages employees to put in extra discretionary effort or to stick around in trying times. Purpose, exploration, expansiveness, creativity, enjoyment, authority, safety and order are desired norms that make employees –and businesses – more resilient. They can either enable or disable businesses. 

So, if leaders want to improve performance, they must be willing to constantly explore and reshape culture in creative, enduring, and pervasive ways. 

Cultural Transformation Does Not Just Solve Problems  

Businesses today are pursuing profit and purpose within a melting pot of expanding stakeholder expectations. That is why cultural transformation needs to be handled proactively, not just when problems surface.  

When we acknowledge that purpose, strategy and culture are dynamic, we have the power to shift businesses into an opportunistic state. A blended mix of science and creativity can inspire employees to deliver a deeper purpose and make businesses more profitable. 



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