In a changing world, it’s become ever more important for companies to master the balance between creativity and productivity. However, the balance is tricky to maintain, the talent is hard to find and the technology is evolving. Despite these hurdles, companies have very good reasons to devote significant resources to the pursuit of creativity.
A recent study by Adobe and Forrester Consulting revealed what they call the “creative dividend.” The study notes that “companies that embrace creativity outperform peers and competitors on key business performance indicators, including revenue growth, market share, and talent acquisition.” Interestingly, they found that 82 percent of companies believe that there is a strong connection between creativity and business results. Yet a staggering 61 percent of companies do not see themselves as creative. With this clear disconnect, it is worth exploring some of the reasons why creativity is important to a company’s success.
Good Ideas Trickle Up
Leaders play an evolving role in developing success, as found by research published in the Harvard Business Review. Rather than take a top-down approach where leadership enforces practices to build creativity, creative success can only be encouraged and organically manifested. This is surprising as in this day and age much of a company’s creative success is attributed to their famous creative leadership, like Apple’s Steve Jobs or Tesla’s Elon Musk. In reality, good ideas often trickle up. The article mentions how Google’s founders “tracked the progress of ideas that they had backed versus ideas that had been executed in the ranks.” In other words, companies that rely on an overly-centralized ideating process miss out on valuable ideas from employees. In fact, Google is a perfect example of this phenomenon.
Autonomy Breeds Innovation
The success of Google’s “20 percent time” — is a case study in showing how creative autonomy breeds innovation. Although it may not be as literal as the name implies, ” 20 percent time ” refers to Google’s legendary “policy of allowing engineers to divvy off part of their work hours for personal projects.” This policy has birthed a few of their most important innovations, including Gmail and AdSense — the “advertising engine developed to support Gmail financially, now producing roughly a quarter of Google’s revenue.” Where other companies’ rigidity stifles innovation, creative companies subvert this bottle-neck.
Passion Beyond the Work Bench
Companies that provide creative outlets for their employees in the office, ultimately empower those individuals beyond the workplace. As Google’s 20 percent time shows, there is enormous value in empowering your team, even when they are working on projects outside of the scope of their roles.
Plethora, a manufacturing startup in San Francisco, exemplifies a company that understands the passion inventors bring to the table is an asset that can and should be harnessed for productivity. The company supports a “Day of Making” every quarter, where employees are encouraged to make whatever they want and form groups to work on fun projects. The Plethora Day of Making has resulted in new bike parts, bartending robots and hydroponic plant walls. Employees are encouraged to share their talents with everyone, ranging from learning a new language to woodworking and even underwater hunting, Plethora is an example of a modern workplace that values expanding the creative atmosphere beyond the work bench.
Another example is Goddess Garden; the company implemented onsite yoga classes shortly after its founder, Nova Covington, completed her yoga teacher training. The yoga classes were so well received that it became a perk of working at the Boulder Colorado-based organic skincare company. Yet another example of success in the creative workplace.
Creativity is for Everyone
Innovative companies rely on creative synergies at every level. In fact, the best companies know that even their most analytical engineers have untapped creative potential. Some of the most creative upcoming companies are striving to empower creativity in everyone. Jude Fulton, founder of Mosss, enables her team with a collaborative concept called “flare and focus.” From her background in architecture, she balances flaring, “thinking widely to incorporate unusual solutions,” with focus. She mentions, “flaring must be paired with moments of acute focus in order to learn and move quickly.” She has translated that to success in her company by encouraging team members to both understand the big picture and focus on detailed execution.
Solutions Come from New Perspectives
When companies are faced with deeply complex challenges, it can help to have an outsider’s perspective to find creative solutions in tackling thorny problems. For example, custom solution companies like Workstate, Onenigma, and Ideo are often brought in to implement creative solutions to deeper technological challenges. With a high demand for solutions, companies like Workstate bring in creative, technical experts to tackle challenges for clients that range from DELL to MoMA.
Successful companies understand that good solutions come from teams that are able to communicate and cooperate at every level while maintaining the autonomy to pursue new ideas. Companies can reach their full potential by applying these learnings to enabling the creative process itself. Ultimately, creativity is a journey, not a destination.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.