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Cartoon: uncreative bureaucrat

 

Seven Deadly Consequences of Uncreativity

There is a lot of talk about the importance of creativity to business these days, but little consideration about the consequences of not being creative. You should be aware of those consequences. Here are seven of them.

1. Without creativity, there is no innovation.

This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but it needs saying. Innovation comes from creative vision. Without that creative vision, there is nothing to innovate. It's rather like trying to make an omelet without eggs. It just will not work.

That means that in order to keep up with your innovative competition, you can buy ideas, steal ideas or fade into irrelevance. The latter option is not a good strategy. Stealing ideas may seem a cost effective option, but it seems that when it comes to dishonesty, creative people are better than that than non-creative people; and if your company is not creative, you are going to find it hard to hire and retain creative employees. This leaves you one option: buying creative ideas, either through licensing or buying up innovative start-ups. This is the strategy most companies use.

So, uncreative companies have to buy innovative companies or license ideas in order to innovate. Creative companies can innovate in house or steal ideas cost effectively.

2. Without creativity, there is no differentiation.

No matter what you may want to buy these days, you will almost certainly find yourself facing a choice of barely distinguishable products in barely distinguishable packaging. Few products truly stand out as different in any positive way. As a result, your choice is based on past experience, a special price or having been bombarded by boring advertisements for a particular product.

The uncreative company is unable to come up with original new ideas that ensure their product stands out or is even recognised. As a result, they have to bombard customers with those boring advertisements in hopes that their brand name will stick in customers' brains long enough for them to go shopping.

The creative company can come up with unconventional, original ideas to make their product stand out as superior, in one or more ways, to the competition's.

So, uncreative companies' products are readily forgettable and demand endless advertising. Creative companies' products stand out for their unique value.

3. Without creativity, you do not see all of the options.

One way that creative people differ from others is that they can visualise more possibilities in a given situation. Less creative people tend only to see the more conventional options in a situation. In a tough negotiation, for example, an uncreative person will limit their thinking to money. If the buyer cannot meet the uncreative seller's price, the seller must either sell at a loss or forego the sale.

A creative person will see more options. She will look beyond the money and find other things to include in a deal. Perhaps she can include additional, value-added services in the sale in order to make it more attractive (and worth more money) to the buyer. Perhaps she can come up with a payment plan that enables the buyer to spread payment into a new year and a new budget. Perhaps she can simplify the deal to make it less costly for both sides. As a result, she is more likely to reach a win-win agreement with the buyer.

So, the uncreative seller loses the sale or sells too cheaply. The creative seller wins the sale on terms that leave both sides happy.

4. Without creativity, complex problems are hard to solve.

Complex problems involve a number of variables and, as a result, obvious, simple solutions are often not the best solutions. In fact, they may be very bad solutions. Complex problems are not solvable by following a five minute Youtube video you found when Googling the problem.

Creative people can visualise complex problems as well as imagine the application of various solutions.

So, the uncreative manager misses an opportunity to grow her company. The creative manager exploits a non-obvious opportunity to serve more clients and grow her company.

 5. Without creativity, you fail to see and exploit opportunities

There is a story about a shoe company that sends two sales people to a developing country in the tropics. The first calls the office and complains, "What a waste of time! There's no market for shoes here. Everyone goes barefoot! I'm catching the next flight home."

The second salesperson calls the office and excitedly says, "Send all the shoes you possibly can. No one here wears shoes. The opportunities are enormous!"

Without creativity, a person sees only what is in front of her. With creativity, she sees not only what is in front of her, but ideas of what could be in front of her.

So, the uncreative salesperson loses out on sales opportunities she does not see. The creative salesperson wins sales opportunities that others do not see.

6. Without creativity, your response to crisis is limited

Crises, by their nature, are unexpected and can severely damage a business and even an entire market. Crises can include natural disasters, human disasters, legislation that affects a company's products, economic downturns and disruptive innovation.

When a crisis hits, managers need to be able to think fast, see multiple options and make a decision. This requires creativity and a willingness to act on that creativity in an uncertain situation.

In many cases, there are signs of an impending crisis. An economic bubble suggests that there will be an economic slowdown and possibly a recession in the near future. A lot of noise about an exciting new product that potentially might appeal to your customers suggests that the product could become a disruptive innovation that steals your customers in no time.

A creative manager is better able to visualise the potential threats, devise original solutions and imagine the application of those solutions to see how they might work. This enables her to find the best solution − or in a worst case scenario, the least damaging solution The non-creative manager can only apply familiar solutions that fail to address the unique nature of the complex problem.

So, the uncreative manager is ill equipped to solve complex problems while the creative manager can devise and apply unique solutions.

7. Without creativity, you cannot make creative ideas even better

Even an uncreative person occasionally has creative ideas and an uncreative company may accidentally hire a creative person (who typically leaves as soon as she can find a more appreciative employer). However, a creative idea alone is not enough to innovate. New ideas are untried and a bit unpredictable. Unexpected problems may crop up in their implementation. Things might not go as planned. Committees may kill the idea for its perceived riskiness.

A creative team understands that innovation does not require a single creative idea, but a creative vision built of numerous integrated creative ideas. They realise that they will need to be continually creative to see an idea through to implementation and to solve the various problems that arise along the way.

The uncreative team will stick to conventional methods and solutions in order to implement the unexpected creative idea. As a result, the idea will become more conventional as it is realised, thus diluting its innovativeness. If the team itself cannot solve a problem using creative methods, the leader will Google the problem and use one of the conventional solutions she finds in the search results.

So, the uncreative team tends to dilute the creativity of potential innovations -- thus reducing value. The creative team is continually creative, adding value to the original creative idea as the members develop it.

Conclusion: uncreativity = missed opportunities, loss of income and market vulnerability

There you have it. creativity is not really an option if you expect your company to grow over the long term, survive crises and be a market leader. It is essential. Without creativity, you can expect to miss opportunities that your competitors exploit, suffer in crises and be a market follower rather than a market leader.

Over the short term, that might work. Over the long term, it is a path to corporate mediocrity.

Fortunately, of course, most organisations fall somewhere between those two extremes of uncreativity and high creativity. But unless your company is near the high level of creativity, it is clear that you are missing opportunities and leaving your business vulnerable to crises.

If this is the case, the solution is simple: hire more creative employees (and give them environment that allows them to shine creatively), train your people to use creative thinking methods like anticonventional thinking (ACT) -- which encourages you visual situations in depth in order to reject conventional thinking in favour of unconventional thinking -- and provide an environment that rewards and encourages creativity.

What is your company like? Are you exploiting creative opportunities or missing out on them?

 

Don't Miss Out on Creative Opportunities!

Does your company or team miss out on business opportunities for lack of creative thinking? Do you fail to negotiate well because you do not see all the options? Is your product or service indistinguishable in a crowded market? Are you prepared for crises?

If you face any of these problems, training in anticonventional thinking (ACT) can help. ACT is not like brainstorming where you generate lots of mediocre ideas and implement none of them. Rather it is about looking deeply into situations, rejecting the obvious conventional solutions and building a creative vision together with a realistic action plan for implementing the vision. As such it is ideal for developing creative solutions to complex problems, differentiating your product from the competition and discovering non-obvious opportunities especially in times of crisis.

ACT is an easy to use process that could save your company. Learn more about ACT or get in touch with me to discuss your organisation and needs.

A version of this article first appeared in the 8 October 2014 issue of Report 103
Updates on 21 September 2016

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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium