You won’t find inspiration on a spreadsheet; An essay from William Childs

Today’s risk-averse business environments do not really support creative thought and ideation the way it should. Most are great at tracking production costs, profitability, taxes, payroll, and many other essential systems that go into running a successful business. But, where does creativity fit in the overall business scheme?

Adobe released a survey where they looked into creativity and how it affects employees around the world. Its ‘State of Create’ global benchmark study surveyed business people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, and Japan. The results were shocking.

80% of those surveyed felt that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth.  Another critical stat showed that 75% of employees said they are always under pressure to be more creative at work.  That’s a huge issue. If you’re feeling pressure to be more creative at work, more than likely you won’t be.  Creativity doesn’t operate like that. It works in an environment where it feels welcome.  If the situation is a pressure cooker or toxic, creativity will not grow, no matter what you try to do. 

The most shocking stat to me was the one showing that only 39% consider themselves creative.  There is a disconnect between the need for creativity in the workplace and employees not being permitted to do anything to change the company culture.   Creativity isn’t something that can be mandated.  You can’t order employees to be more creative, then criticize them if results don’t show up on your balance sheet. Spreadsheets have always been a window to the past, while creativity is the doorway to the future. 

Leadership guru, Simon Sinek, believes this, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” This is not to say that you hire lemmings, but rather people who have a desire to make an impact through their work.

A company that embraces, fosters, and nurtures their employee’s creative well-being is going to have to be one that’s willing to walk into the unknown. There’s just no other way to do it.  Our society has done a terrible disservice conditioning all of us to believe that risk is wrong and must be avoided.  Especially when it comes to untested ideas. 

Best-selling author Hugh Macleod offers this blunt, yet accurate assessment. “If you’re creative, if you can think independently, if you can articulate passion, if you can override the fear of being wrong, then your company needs you now more than it ever did.  And now your company can no longer afford to pretend that isn’t the case.”

Which is why leaders struggle with bringing creativity into their business.  They are not comfortable with the unpredictable nature that it inspires. Any untested idea or solution is going to require a leap of faith and involve risk before it can emerge into a product or new service that will drive revenue. 

Albert Einstein, considered one of the 20th century’s greatest minds said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Businesses that can tap into that power stand a much better chance of creating a vibrant culture, unlocking emerging markets, and creating new revenue streams.  Focus on creating an environment for employees to grow and develop creatively and support their efforts by allowing them to take risks. And whatever you do, do not stigmatize mistakes. Ever.  

If the Adobe research showed me anything, it’s that creativity is recognized as critical for economic growth, but it still has a long way to go before its universally accepted as a tool to drive change. 

The good news is the future only comes one day at a time.  The bad news is that if you’re unwilling to bring creativity into your business in a real and tangible way, you won’t have much of a future to worry about anyway.

THE AUTHOR: WILLIAM CHILDS | Creative Director | Brand Storyteller | Columnist | Optimist
Bill is an accomplished creative leader with a history of delivering award-winning campaigns for a variety of businesses. Relentlessly dedicated to the skillful and creative translation of strategic business objectives, he’s known as a collaborative mentor and champion of fearless creativity. With a career spanning three decades, Childs knows how to take an acceptable idea and turn it into an exceptional one. His reputation of setting high creative standards while helping to create a culture of genuine collaboration and engagement is one of things he’s most proud of across his career. Recognizing and mentoring talent, and building high-performing, cohesive teams is one of his passions. Email. Website. Twitter. LinkedIn.

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