Real Leaders

How Creative Thinking Helps You — and Your Business

Creativity has the power to move business. It’s the banner under which good design, storytelling, and compelling brand actions come to life. With the barrier to entry becoming easier in many sectors and so many products looking the same, creativity will decide who wins.

Think about the rumors of Apple building a car; years ago, that idea would have seemed insane for a computer company. Yet, this type of creative thinking keeps a brand top of mind and valuable as an innovator. If you’re a smart CEO, creativity is something you should embrace massively, as it’s something you can apply to so many aspects of your company to unlock potential and new value.

Start by creating a company culture where creativity can thrive. Creating a safe space where employees can be themselves is a good starting point but harder than you think. 

It takes an element of bravery to allow misfits and divergent voices in your company to be heard and a flexible corporate culture to accommodate them. Getting staff to let their guard down can be challenging — especially within a hierarchy — and a human approach is key to solving this problem.

Create a process that allows for collaboration and creativity. Reimagine your metrics for success to include failure — there are lessons there too. Build resilience for when you hear “no” to an idea, with an ability to move on to more ideas without losing enthusiasm. Remember, nobody likes a genuinely creative idea at first because it’s too original, and there’s no framework for its success. CEOs need to keep an open mind and give space to things they may not understand yet fully.

As a child, my family would move every four years around the world. I lived in Ghana, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and South Africa — each time needing to start from scratch and build a new life. It created a lot of curiosity in me and an appreciation of different people and cultures, and it’s something I’ve brought into my professional life. Advertising is so close to culture that seeking out diverse experiences can help your marketing strategy too. The Internet today allows access to so many diverse points of view that there’s no excuse anymore for not stimulating your brain with creative thinking, even if you’ve never left your city or country before. You don’t need to hop on a plane anymore to find a meaningful experience or connection either. Curiosity is the key.

The skill of a good designer is knowing what to highlight and what to ignore. A good storyteller does the same. Figuring out the core of your creative message is something you should spend time on. Some of the questions you should ask are: What is the purpose of my business beyond the product that I make? What value do I want to create in the world, and how can I move toward that value? Ideally, your product should be advancing you toward this value because it will strengthen your relationship with customers. At the same time, stay flexible because nobody knows when the next pandemic, economic crisis, or upheaval will happen again. By practicing creative thinking in your organization, you train yourself to roll with the punches and quickly come up with new solutions when the going gets tough.

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