In many ways, we live in one of the most innovative and disruptive times in human history, a time when million dollar ideas are seemingly plentiful and opportunities to be creative can be found. While technology has proven instrumental in facilitating many of these new opportunities, today’s technological innovations that are reshaping our lives are a direct result of melding need with creative thinking.
When it comes to building success through creative inspiration, few companies compare with Apple. The tech giant, which, as we all know, was the brainchild of Steve Jobs, is responsible for products and technology that many of us now wouldn’t dream of living without.
Apple’s relationship with imaginative thinking has been the subject of countless books and films, most of which praise Jobs and his creative ingenuity. However, Jerry Wind, a marketing professor at Wharton Business School, believes it is more important to foster an environment of creativity, as opposed to looking to one individual to conceptualize innovative ideas.
“It’s terrific that Apple had a leader as creative as Jobs, but organizations shouldn’t depend on a single individual for creativity,” said Wind. “Effective leaders create an environment in which everyone becomes more creative, and that creativity is encouraged and supported. If a company is only as creative as its CEO, can it succeed without him or her?”
Even though Jobs was behind some of the most innovative products of the last two decades, it should be duly noted that he did not inspire an environment of curiosity and creativity. Instead, he relied on his own ingenuity to propel the company, an impediment that in some way has plagued Apple since Jobs’ passing.
Building a business that nurtures, promotes and encourages imaginative thinking can be challenging, especially in today’s competitive business world where operating budgets can be stretched thin. However, failing to invest in a business’ future through innovation can also lead to declining revenues and even render a business obsolete.
“When your environment is changing quickly and dramatically, old ways of thinking don’t allow you to operate effectively. You have to challenge and ideally change your mental models of both your organization and your industry,” continues Professor Wind.
So, how does a CEO foster an environment of curiosity and creativity?
In recent years, a new trend has began to emerge that unites creativity and business, namely the creative consultant. These creative leaders offer tools and strategies aimed at enhancing originality and inviting opportunities for new ways of thinking and new perspectives within today’s businesses.
U.K.-based Artist in the Boardroom is one such company promising to inspire more creativity within business and corporate culture.
“The future needs far more people who can adapt and take a different approach,” said artist and creative consultant Dominika Phillips. “We need artists in all walks of life and at all levels. We need leaders and pioneers who have the courage to let go of the familiar and explore new territory.”
In Canada, meanwhile, Jeff Melanson, former president of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), recently launched his own creative consulting firm. Working in several key areas, including architecture, development and city building, organizational management and product and service development, Creative Change Management Consulting (CCMC) provides the roadmap for bringing creative thinking to business.
“We are strong believers that in order to remain viable in the constantly evolving business world, companies need to embrace creativity. Often that means introducing the perspectives and mindset of professionals who have worked in other fields,” notes Jeff Melanson. “Our goal at [Creative Change Management Consulting] is to apply our team’s experience in the creative community to help build and even transform a business’ way of thinking, whether that’s concerning a particular project or at a broader level.”
While a creative consultant is able to plant the seeds of imaginative innovation, it is ultimately up to management to continue the investment in creative ingenuity. This is best achieved by allowing cross-sector or cross-discipline collaboration and creating a business environment that rewards and applauds new ways of thinking.
Great ideas don’t occur in a vacuum – they are a combination of ideas and concepts that are tested and vetted in the real world. In order for businesses to achieve the inspired level of creativity it takes to succeed, it requires a concerted effort that values the opinions and input of all employees.