The Competitive Advantage: Creativity 

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April 5, 2023

What sets your company apart? Is it superior products? Unparalleled customer service? While these certainly help you stand out, a company's true competitive advantage lies in its creativity. Businesses that are excellent problem solvers, storytellers, and team builders will always outperform the competition.  

Defining creativity 

Let's be clear, creativity is not about being artistic – it's about thinking differently. It involves exploring new perspectives, thinking outside the box, and taking risks. In business, being creative means harnessing the unique talents and strengths of your team to generate new ideas and find better solutions. Embracing this form of creativity is the key to business growth. 

Creative problem solving 

When things don't go according to plan and you-know-what hits the fan, what do you do? Close up shop or dig your heels in? Challenges are the catalyst for innovation. This is the time to push boundaries and do something new and exciting. 

Take Pixar, for example. Before becoming one of the most famous entertainment franchises, the company started out selling high-tech graphics software. However, unable to turn a profit, Pixar shifted to film production. In partnership with Disney, they made the world’s first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story, which not only was the highest-grossing film in 1995 but remains one of the most acclaimed animated films ever made. Today, Pixar has amassed over $14.7 billion in sales at the box office and is valued at about $3.3 billion. Not bad for a failing business.  

Similarly, when unprecedented times hit in 2020, companies had to learn to adapt or become obsolete. Gravitas, a women’s professional clothing brand, faced the challenge of supplying to a market where demand was nonexistent. With statewide lockdowns and office closures, people didn’t have a need for business attire. Instead of calling it quits, Founder and CEO, Lisa Sun, pulled her team together and asked them what superpowers they possessed that could still add value. Using its existing inventory, Gravitas stepped in to support the rising need for face masks and hospital gowns. In addition, the company produced more casual "WFH" apparel and sold items based on the number of hours it would provide an employee to work. Through it all, Gravitas overcame the odds and beautifully showcased the power of hope, perseverance, and creative problem-solving. 

Creative messaging 

To differentiate yourself in a crowded market requires creativity. If you look the same and sound like every other business out there, you’ll go unnoticed. Companies must get comfortable with experimenting and exploring unconventional approaches, specifically with their messaging and branding.  

Apple is a poster child for this. Known for its innovation, Apple has been a disruptor in both tech and creative messaging. Campaigns like "Silhouette" and “I’m a Mac” became iconic because they brought to life the fun, energy, and personality of computers and mobile devices. By making creativity the center of its brand, Apple has not only left a lasting impression but gained the loyal following of millions. 

And just because you’re B2B doesn’t mean you can’t have creative messaging. IBM’s “Let’s Create” campaign is an excellent example of how a B2B company can tell a compelling story using creative messaging and imagery. This series of commercials addresses real business problems and how companies can use IBM solutions to make a difference in the real world. They are inventive and engaging, while remaining simple and effective.  

Creative culture

If your company struggles with creative problem-solving and creative messaging, it may be because you don't have a culture that supports creativity. That might sound harsh, but work environments that encourage creative expression and give team members freedom in their roles are more productive and resourceful. Other benefits include deeper levels of satisfaction and higher employee retention rates. 

Ways to Foster a Creative Culture:

  • Be flexible 
  • Allow for autonomy  
  • Worry less about “how”  
  • Encourage taking risks  
  • Allow space for failure  
  • Welcome new ideas  
  • Celebrate personal wins 
  • Support individual endeavors  
  • Make time for play 
  • Break up the mundane   
  • Plan social opportunities  

A great way to stimulate creativity is by getting people into a new state of mind. Before kicking off a brainstorming session, start with a thought-provoking question that is unexpected. Asking what kind of animal someone would be and why may not be relevant to the project, but it will get your team thinking and the creative juices flowing. You can also break up the day with fun activities, games, or trivia. The point is to have fun and create a space that is vibrant and inspiring.   

Conclusion

In today's fast-paced and constantly evolving market, creativity is the difference maker. It’s how you’ll find that one thing no other business can replicate or reproduce that’s truly original to you. By nurturing new ideas and different ways of doing things, your business can unlock its full potential and set itself up for long-term success.   

 

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