The fusion of creativity and strategic thinking is no longer a luxury but a necessity. While traditional business skills are crucial for maintaining operations and managing resources, incorporating creative skills into the business mindset can be the key to unlocking innovation, fostering adaptability, and driving overall success. According to a survey by Deloitte, high-growth companies are more likely than their negative-growth peers to allow creativity to flourish.

Adam Collis, professor of practice at Thunderbird School of Global Management and program director of the Sidney Poitier New American Film School at Arizona State University, spoke with us on creativity and innovation in business.

The secret of how creativity benefits business

Collis, who earned his MBA at UCLA, spoke of a time when he found out a truth about business and creativity. 

Years ago, an associate who was a creative person was attending school at UCLA. She called him up excitedly one day. “She said, ‘Here's the thing. This is what they never tell you; business is a wildly creative process.’ And I was like, really? Because that doesn't check out with what most people think about businesses.”

Collis stated that business is a place “where you can actually take your wildest ideas and put business structures around them. This will help bring it into reality in a way that delivers value for customers and sustains that business.”

The following are some ways creativity can benefit a business.

Innovation and problem solving

Creativity is the driving force behind innovation. Business leaders with creative skills are adept at thinking beyond conventional boundaries, inspiring teams to explore new ideas and approaches. “Innovation doesn't come from staid traditional business thinking,” Collis stated. “Innovation comes from understanding what creative process is.”

This innovation-centric mindset is crucial for staying competitive in industries where disruption is the norm. Creative problem-solving becomes a collective effort, leading to the development of groundbreaking products, services, or processes that set the business apart.

Creative individuals are also naturally inclined to think unconventionally. In a business context, this translates to the ability to see challenges from multiple perspectives. When faced with obstacles, individuals with creative skills are more likely to generate unique solutions that might not be immediately apparent. 

Adaptability in a rapidly changing environment

Creative individuals are more comfortable with ambiguity and change. They view disruptions not as threats, but as opportunities for growth and innovation. Business leaders with creative skills guide their teams through periods of uncertainty by instilling a positive and adaptive mindset. This ability to embrace change positions the business to proactively identify and capitalize on emerging trends.

In fast-paced environments, quick and informed decision-making is essential. Creative thinkers excel in making decisions on the fly, drawing upon their ability to synthesize information rapidly and think creatively under pressure. This agility is a valuable asset in industries where market conditions can shift rapidly, allowing businesses to seize opportunities and mitigate risks in real-time.

Effective communication and storytelling

Creative skills enhance a business person's ability to communicate effectively with various stakeholders. Whether addressing employees, investors, or customers, a creative communicator can convey complex ideas in a clear and compelling manner. This skill is crucial in ensuring that everyone within and outside the organization understands the company's vision, mission, and strategic objectives.

Creativity also transforms presentations from routine to memorable experiences. Business people with creative skills use visual storytelling, engaging narratives, and innovative presentation techniques to capture their audience's attention. This not only makes the information more digestible but also leaves a lasting impression, increasing the likelihood that key messages resonate with the audience.

Employee engagement and collaboration

Collis cited a famous Peter Drucker quote: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast." That means that no matter how strong your strategic plan is, it will be held back by team members if they don't share the proper culture.

“I believe it in every frame of my being,” he said. “And even though there are companies that don't pay attention to culture and they crank out a gazillion dollars, that's definitely not the Apples of the world. There is an energy that comes out of being creative that has very positive business effects.” 

Business people with creative skills understand the importance of creating a work environment that encourages creativity. They champion a culture where employees feel empowered to contribute ideas without fear of judgment. This fosters a sense of ownership and engagement among team members, leading to increased innovation and productivity.

Creativity also thrives in diverse and inclusive environments. Leaders with creative skills actively seek diverse perspectives, recognizing that varied viewpoints contribute to more innovative solutions. By fostering an inclusive culture, business individuals ensure that their teams bring a range of experiences and ideas to the table, enriching the creative process and leading to more robust outcomes.

Customer-centric approach

Creative skills enable business individuals to empathize with customers and understand their needs on a deeper level. By adopting a customer-centric mindset, they can anticipate evolving preferences and pain points. This understanding allows for the development of products and services that align more closely with customer expectations, fostering loyalty and satisfaction.

Creativity also plays a crucial role in designing memorable and engaging customer experiences. From the layout of a physical store to the user interface of a digital platform, creative thinking contributes to creating experiences that resonate with customers on an emotional level. Businesses that prioritize customer experience through creative approaches often build stronger and more enduring relationships with their clientele.

Risk management and decision-making

“The creative process really is a little bit of a magic box,” Collis stated. “You have to come into the process and learn what's in that box. That will help change your perspective and help you generate your own new ideas.”

Creativity is closely linked to risk-taking, and business individuals with creative skills are more open to taking calculated risks. They understand that innovation often involves venturing into uncharted territory. By embracing calculated risks, they position their businesses to explore new opportunities and gain a competitive edge in the market.

Creative thinkers also excel at processing information from various sources and synthesizing it into actionable insights. This ability is invaluable in making well-informed decisions. Business people with creative skills approach decision-making with a holistic perspective, considering both quantitative data and qualitative insights, leading to more comprehensive and strategic choices.

Find the creativity to grow your career at Thunderbird

In a world where innovation and adaptability are paramount, the marriage of business acumen and creative skills becomes a powerful combination. Business people who embrace creativity open the door to new possibilities, foster a culture of innovation, and position their organizations for sustained success in an ever-evolving market.

“Creativity can be taught to business people to help them become more valuable to their companies,” Collis said. “It is a little like roping the wind, but there are ways to learn how to rope the wind. And that's the sort of thing that we develop in the students that come to be a part of our program.”

Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University understands the importance of strong leadership by offering top degrees, including the Master of Leadership and Management: Global Creative Industries degree program.

Learn about additional opportunities to further your leadership education with Thunderbird’s executive education programs.

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