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Serving Up Creativity as a Strategy

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Today, evangelizing creativity as a strategy should not only be a given, it should distinguish what a successful business practice looks like. Leaders would recognize that “disruptive” technologies or “disruptive” anything (including viral pandemics) are in fact, creative strategies solving for a shift in the environment. Yet, mention the mantra “let’s stay in the creative mode,” and some result-based thinkers see a fluffy ball of cotton candy, spun out of ethereal wisps of ideas that melt on your tongue before key performance indicators can be articulated. The playbook of management consultants preaching the latest data-driven best practices still dominate the marketplace while “creativity” is regulated as a specialty channel, reserved for the creative sector or the marketing department.

Yet, there is no more consistent and measured “secret sauce” than creativity. When used as a focused, disciplined strategy, creativity can:

  • Increase profitability

  • Leverage big data and business intelligence ahead of your competition

  • Result in above average employee and customer retention

  • Energize a new breed of leaders and organizations that are not only resilient but can adapt and thrive in a changing environment.

Most business leaders rely on what’s proven and acceptable in their sector and spheres of influence, investing precious capital in strategies that have been developed to manage a problem but will never solve it. A creativity approach looks to “solve” or reframe a problem with a focus on generating a large set of possibilities that can seed concrete opportunities, authentic solutions, and even lead to innovation. Don’t get me wrong, successful leaders and organizations need disciplined management. But they also need creative capacity at all levels of the organization.

So, what comes first – creativity or management? Imagine yourself in a well-stocked kitchen featuring every ingredient, culinary tool, and appliance imaginable. Your task is to create a meal for a particularly important guest. Even if you’ve never been in a kitchen before, if you are given a recipe with the ability to invite people who like to cook to help you, you could divvy up the responsibilities and produce an edible and enjoyable meal. Now, let’s say that you are Julia Child and are given the recipe, in that same well-stocked kitchen with the same group of people to help. No matter what the recipe says, you will use your culinary knowledge, the inspiration of a fully stocked kitchen and the passion of the food-loving team to create a meal that will go far beyond the recipe and expectations. In fact, you may not follow the recipe at all and may gather ideas from the rest of the team of what this very important guest would enjoy. I venture to guess the Julia Child meal would outperform the other “managed” meal on every metric.

Think of management as the recipe, and creativity as the culinary chef. Most businesses can follow a recipe, tweak a recipe, and produce expected results if they have the equipment and the ingredients. Think of creativity as the chef that can adapt, reframe, reimagine an outcome even if an ingredient is missing, a tool is obsolete, and with the right skills and expertise, the recipe is only a reference point. If the outcome is one that should be replicated, the chef and team can re-create the success by rewriting, adapting or producing a new recipe to be followed and shared.

Strategy is a series of choices and actions, much like stacking cups, that achieve a defined aim or goal while management is the process of controlling people and/or things. Given that, creativity is a strategy (with an added dash of color) especially when focused on a defined outcome or goal. The recipe is a documented process with controls and behaviors needed, in other words: management.

If you are curious on whether you could benefit by adding creativity into your leadership, business, or team strategies, here are four questions to consider:

  • Could your company/organization easily transform into something else?

  • Can you imagine your company/organization 20 years into the future with different ingredients, tools, and skills?

  • How are you prepared to lead in an environment that is turbulent and/or changing?

  • Does your team face ambiguity and the unknown with trepidation or excitement?

Most leaders and businesses today have both doubt and uncertainty about those questions as well as what a winning strategy looks like. The good news: there are new creative ways of working that have measurable results. Why not adopt creativity as one of your winning approaches? It could make you the chef of possibility and help your team/organization update their recipes for success.

Break the Tape Leadership loves helping leaders and organizations find creative solutions and strategies. We invite you to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to see how we might help you meet your creativity and growth objectives.

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