How creativity drives business innovation and growth

With the increasing pressure for companies to be innovative and discover new ways to serve their customers, business leaders should be turning to creativity to meet their growth goals. Creativity is an underrated driver of business growth, especially with such a focus on big data and AI. While data analysis and creativity may seem to be opposites, they can work hand in hand to create and fulfil innovation opportunities and reroute businesses in response to proactively encourage creative thinking in their employees. 

So, what kind of effect can creativity actually have on business success?

The positive potential of creativity in business

It may seem like creativity is a privilege, not a priority, for businesses that instead should be focused on direct money-making activities. However, the benefits creativity can create are worth prioritising because of the value produced. McKinsey researched the effect of creativity on business growth and found that companies that scored highly in the Award Creativity Score (ACS) were more innovative and performed better financially. 

This is likely because creative thinking leads to new ways of working, whether it's new products to meet emerging customer needs, new processes to improve the customer experience, or ways to implement new technologies to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The breakthrough innovations stimulate growth and enable companies to establish differentiations that give them a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive environment. 

Additionally, creative thinking increases the usefulness of big data. As Steve Jobs said, "Creativity is just connecting things." Data can be used to track and gather information for an objective and holistic perspective. Creativity can be used to develop new ideas that bridge the vision for the business with the current situation, driving the business forward. 

Furthermore, every member of an organisation can get involved in a push for creative thinking, from the board of directors to entry-level roles. This not only multiplies the opportunity for innovative solutions to be identified but embeds creativity in the day-to-day running of the business. 

How to use creativity to drive innovation and growth

Despite the benefits of creativity that initiate financial growth, only 46% of employees agree that their organisation encourages creative thinking. With all the moving parts in a business, to take full advantage of the positive impact of creativity, business leaders need to proactively encourage creative thinking in their employees. Here are some strategies for encouraging high-value creativity. 

Set the precedent 

Business leaders should set the tone. As well as talking about creativity as a business priority, they should set an example of how to use it in day-to-day business operations, such as in business meetings and real-time problem-solving. 

Company-wide buy-in to making creativity a priority is needed for total utilisation. There will likely be team members who don't see themselves as creative or understand its value for their own role. Position creativity as part of the company's values, mission, vision and culture; if employees feel they are part of an industry-leading organisation, engaging them in creative activities is easier. 

Combine with data insights

Creative thinking and data insights both support effective decision-making. Data insights establish the current state of the business, highlighting areas of improvement where creative thinking can be used to find new ways forward. 

When implementing innovations, data insights track their impact and show where adjustments must be made for the greatest possible results. Data insights can also be used predictively, allowing businesses to develop creative solutions to challenges before they occur. 

Be guided by customers

Creativity, for creativity's sake, will not have a positive impact on business outcomes. This generally results in the unintended consequence of spreading resources too thin and implementing disconnected ideas.

Instead, business goals should guide creativity, particularly to meet customer needs. By understanding customers intimately, creative thinking can be applied to achieve specific results. 

Use various customer data sources such as customer feedback surveys, behavioural analysis data, and marketing analytics. This will piece together their problems, priorities and preferences. A depth of understanding allows you to develop creative marketing strategies that set you apart and even come up with solutions to problems before customers know they need them. 

Challenge pre-existing views

Creative thinking requires out-of-the-box thinking that looks beyond the status quo and any preconceptions. There are specific techniques to help employees think creatively in this way. For example, employees could spend time working within another part of the organisation to see the business from a different perspective. 

Or they could act as a customer of a competitor's business to experience an alternative way of doing things. It brings them outside of their expectations. Another technique is to set fake limits, posing 'what if' questions. As the team looks for ways to respond, they make insightful discoveries. 

Follow through 

Innovative ideas must be translated into action to ensure creativity creates value. As with all innovations, there needs to be a process for developing new ideas, validating the ideas, experimenting and analysing, and implementing viable concepts. Seeing the results of their efforts come to life will motivate the team to keep innovating. 

Innovation is a priority for many businesses looking to grow during these challenging times with rising costs, changing customer demands, and rapidly emerging technologies. For firms to innovate, whether in products and services, marketing campaigns or internal operations, they must embed creative thinking into their organisation. 

Paired with data analysis, it allows businesses to make the connections needed to discover different ways of thinking, doing and being. This can lead to resolving issues and forging new opportunities that establish a competitive advantage. It takes creativity to stay ahead. 

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