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Why creativity is still the strongest economic currency

The 20th century was defined by our obsession with productivity and efficiency. Businesses that delivered more, faster, and for less, were the clear winners. But as the world shifts from the information age to the conceptual age, as we evolve from the third to the fourth industrial economy, as we continue to grapple with the impact of Covid-19, globalisation and climate change, creativity is making a run for the leaderboard. This should come as no surprise. A chorus of leading business voices have been touting its benefits for years. But have we been listening?

A New Demand For Creativity

In 2015, The World Economic Forum placed creativity as the tenth most important skill for future business success. By 2018, creativity was or was related to 9 of the top 10 skills global executives say are essential for 2020 and beyond. And last year, LinkedIn scraped the data from over 20+ million job listings posted on their site. Creativity came in as the number one soft skill employers will look for in the next decade.

From Soft Skill To Hard Returns

In 2016, Adobe found that creative companies enjoy 1.5 times the market share. And the brands that put creativity at the heart of their strategy outperformed the S&P Index by 219 per cent over 10 years. In 2019, Forrester ran a study entitled ‘The Cost of Losing Creativity’, and found that investing in creativity will achieve significantly higher returns over a six-year period. McKinsey developed a ‘Creativity Index’ whereby they measured the creative capability of a company. Companies that score high on their index outperform their competitors in two key metrics:

  1. an appetite and aptitude for innovation (growth)
  2. shareholder return (profit).

It seems we’ve finally found a way to measure the ROI of our imagination and the best part is, it’s not limited to shareholders.

Company Stock To Your Back Pocket

As part of their global benchmark study, called ‘State of Create’, Adobe found that respondents who identify as someone who creates for a living enjoyed 17 per cent higher household income than non-creators. This was backed up by the Foundation for Young Australians in their ‘The New Basics’ report. Over three years, they looked at the data of over 4.2 million job listings and found that any job that listed creativity as an attribute had an average annual salary boost of $3129 pa.

Take a minute now to update your LinkedIn profile. Put ‘creative’ in it. Go on, you deserve some of that extra cash. Humour aside, the affect creativity has on the bottom line, of both a company and an individual, and the urgency with which both entities should be making it a priority are obvious. So why aren’t we hearing more about it?

Set Fire To Outdated Stereotypes

We’ve still got some baggage to work through. Until recently, creativity always seemed to be at odds with business. Organisations could get behind innovation. With a nudge, they might even experiment with design thinking. But on its own, creativity seemed to lack a certain hardness.

Too fluffy and inconsequential for the boardroom. Missing the credibility most leaders look for in a mindset or skillset to make tough, strategic decisions. Better left to artists, kids, or those wacky types in colourful shirts in the marketing team.

But as the world continues to throw more ‘unprecedented events’ our way (and you can be sure it will), our ability to find and form new value, that is both original and useful is paramount to our success. If we want to stay relevant in the eyes of our customers, colleagues or company, we need to make creativity a priority. And it starts with you.

By Mykel Dixon: award-winning speaker, creative leadership advisor and 
event curator and author of Everyday Creative: 
A Dangerous Guide To Making Magic At Work - B&T
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