Business leaders often conflate the universality of “creativity” with the exceptionalism of “creative.” The “creative” designation is set aside for the exceptional few — an artist, a designer, a creative team, or founders of innovative companies. But rationing permission to “be creative” and burying the spirit of creativity that flows through us all prevents us from seeing that creativity is everywhere.

Every baby tries new things. All children play creatively. Adults embrace creativity in their passions and patronage. Why should it be any different in business? If creativity abounds in life, it also flourishes in work. The role of parents and educators is to recognize and nurture creativity, but it’s also the responsibility and opportunity of business and technology leaders — if you’re bold enough to embrace it.

Why turn to creativity? Given the pervasive access to the same capital, processes, and technology, businesses today need a new force multiplier to produce their unfair advantage. Creativity offers a new differentiator. It’s a way of thinking and working that elevates your ability to solve problems and energize employees, products, processes, and experiences. Does it work? Well, our data show that firms that exhibit creativity grow 2.6 times faster than their peers.

“Creativity is an organizing principle that elevates your individual and collective ability to energize your business and brand.” – Ted Schadler and Jay Pattisall

Many examples of creativity in business abound, with the pandemic providing big motivation to think and work differently:

  1. Sam’s Club kicked into high gear to meet the challenge of curbside pickup during the pandemic. When the challenge of scheduling curbside pickup and optimizing in-store basket-filling collided, the Sam’s Club culture of metrics-driven experimentation and collaborative problem-solving was ready to go, simultaneously optimizing staff time, boosting customer satisfaction, and scheduling slots.
  2. Salesforce reinvented events and selling when in-person meetings evaporated. When the normal sequence of events, leads, meetings, and deals ran into the brick-wall barrier of COVID-19, Salesforce found new solutions to spin up virtual events, targeted marketing, and e-commerce engagement.
  3. Vistaprint pivoted from selling supplies to producing cloth masks. When brands shifted from consumption to crisis management, Vistaprint retooled its operations — in a just a couple of weeks — to launch a new e-commerce offering selling face masks and, soon thereafter, a customizable product.

The power and potential of creativity as an operating principle is that it applies broadly across your company and doesn’t require an additional budget like innovation initiatives do. Creativity doesn’t mean more people. It means more empowered people and teams thinking and working together differently. We drew inspiration from design thinking and from the ideas in Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success” to identify three elements needed to spark creativity in your firm:

  • A cooperative mindset that applies collaboration to common purpose
  • Empowering conditions that give license for diverse teams to take risks together
  • Exploratory practices that institutionalize experimentation in pursuit of novel solutions

By focusing on creativity, both internally and through work with customers and partners, we believe companies can kick-start a wellspring of growth. The key is thinking and working individually and collectively to develop breakthrough ideas that feed the engines of design and innovation.

As part of Forrester’s Future Fit technology strategy research, we’ve written a new report called “Creativity Catalyzes The Growth Mindset” to illustrate how CIOs and tech leaders as well as business and marketing leaders can put creativity to work inside their companies and teams. If you would like to set up an inquiry, feel free to email tschadler@forrester.com or jpattisall@forrester.com.