I wanted to start this post out by a quote from Steve Jobs from an interview he gave to Wired magazine as it provides the premise to why creativity is so important to success in business and in life:
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
The genius behind any great idea typically involves something that already exists from several markets in complete silo to one another that are eventually brought together in a way that is often termed genius. These types of connections don’t always come from brainstorming sessions or focus groups, but are often a iterative process that comes from months and years of trial and error with multiple ideas and projects at the same time. Eventually a melding of the minds–or the ideas–occurs. That’s where genius products and services are created.
There are several key facts surrounding this idea of creativity in business that will be absolutely essential as the world of marketing and finance move forward.
First, innovation creation needs to outpace capital creation. In simple terms, you can never get a great idea, implement, see success and then sit on your laurels. The process must be iterative. Sometimes it also means technology adoption (as long as it has a positive ROI) should also outpace creation of capital. Time is a great teacher. It tells us that businesses come and go, but the innovators–regardless of the industry–will continue to remain. Investments in innovation doesn’t guarantee eventual irrelevance, but it can certainly help to slow the process.
Second, you must utilize today’s technology for a more thorough and holistic approach to pushing your business forward. It will no longer suffice to have a marketing manager that doesn’t know IT or an IT manager that doesn’t know marketing. Your marketing manager will need to be more integrated into the IT ecosystem than ever before.
Third, be prepared to risk. When we often tell our clients that they’ll need to invest a little or a lot in some tool, there is often push-back. However, if that definition of insanity holds true (i.e. doing the same thing and expecting different results), then by all means, don’t risk. If you 1) want to grow at 2) a positive ROI, there has to be an initial upfront investment–something we call a risk. It could be technology, it could be human capital or it could be a change in process. In some cases, it could be an elimination of one of the three. People and organizations hate change. Deliver change and long term changes to the bottom-line will ultimately result.
A current client with whom we work is struggling to increase the value of his business in an effort to cash-out. He makes a good income, but wants to retire early. And, with the uncertainty in the markets, he would like a specific cash-out threshold before he’s willing to capitulate to sell. Unfortunately, his EBITDA numbers and the multiples paid by even the most strategic buyers in a business auction don’t match his purported needs. Hence, he needed a change. In his case, he needed both technological change as well as human capital hiring–both a risk to the business which may not bear fruit for many months to come, but it’s an investment he needs to make for more cash flow and a greater payout in the event he gets acquired in an M&A scenario.
The true display of creative genius–in my mind–does not occur in art but in business. Unfortunately, today’s geniuses are obliged to sustain themselves and so they take positions at some of the top firms in the world. There they produce ideas that change the way we look at products, services and how we interact and communicate in business settings. For those who’re truly able to connect the dots of unrelated ideas to create completely new businesses, services and opportunities, we salute you. For those that don’t, it’s time to look to hire an entrepreneur.