It’s Time to Re-Evaluate the Role of Creativity in Transforming Businesses

Doing so will solve problems, which leads to measurable change

Creative disruption doesn't just signify a change for creativity as a whole—it also means creatives need to adapt. Getty Images
Headshot of Donald Chesnut

For creatives of today and tomorrow, it’s time to face our own personal disruption, which is being caused by the accelerating change around us. Whether you’re at an agency, consultancy, client or somewhere else, the creative department and its role in transforming brands has fundamentally changed. Just as marketing and advertising have evolved in the past 15 years to become different industries, it’s time to step up and rethink the role that creatives and more importantly, creativity, play in transforming businesses. This redefinition will require letting go of old-world creative paradigms, such as chasing recognition by a jury of our peers (did I actually say that?) and realizing the new, unchartered problem-solving potential that informed creativity can play.

Who are the most creative and innovative companies today? Is it the agencies, as a category? Or is it some of our own disrupters like Magic Leap, Google and Netflix, which are mixing designers with engineers and data analysts in entirely agile teams, developing new products, services and experiences? These types of companies are embodying an approach to design and creative capabilities that will continue to disrupt our industry.

Digital disruption is occurring at an exponential rate, presenting businesses with unprecedented challenges and driving them to transform to keep pace with the increasing demands of today’s consumers. As creatives, how can we help these businesses defend against new challengers, disrupt the status quo and thrive in a new world where change will be continual and exponential? It all starts with letting go of old, traditional constructs. The future depends on an evolved type of creativity that’s focused on impact, enabled and driven by data and powered by technology.

Digital disruption is occurring at an exponential rate, presenting businesses with unprecedented challenges and driving them to transform to keep pace with the increasing demands of today’s consumers.

How we view and define creativity must transform to align with the way that businesses are reorienting themselves for the digital age. As creatives, we’ve allowed ourselves to think of creativity and business transformation as separate ideas and view great creative output as belonging only in some types of work or under the agency construct. This perspective limits our potential as creatives and is no longer an accurate representation of creativity’s true value in business.

The shift can be summarized by moving away from thinking of “creative” as a department or set of capabilities and instead moving toward a notion of informed creativity as a mindset for solving customer and business needs in a unique way.

The need for smart, informed creativity is greater now more than ever as organizations look for unique, innovative ways to meet the needs and exceed the expectations of their customers, as well as to reduce costs and create new digitally driven products. As businesses shift priorities and focus on customer journey-based transformation for survival, creativity is critically needed but under a different frame than traditional or digital marketing. Creative capabilities are the best way to demonstrate a transformed business, through new, best-in-class products and services transformed for a customer-empowered world. It’s time to reform the norm by valuing outcomes over output, embracing data, becoming more agile and so much more—all in relentless pursuit of solving problems and driving real change.

What follows is a creed for budding technologically orientated creatives that aims to redefine the way we lead and realize our new potential.

A Creative’s Creed (in verse)

The new creativity is the relentless pursuit of problem-tackling
And not the endless pursuit of fame and award-stacking
Rely on the openness to many inputs and involvements
And avoid the black box of dated creative departments
Live the imagineer mentality and creed
An artistic approach, a creative doesn’t need
Shaping the future, a creative problem-solver’s intention
Circumvent relying on changing current convention
Fall in love with problems, complications and intrusions
And confront all issues with the love of solutions
Creative disrupters value outcomes and wins
Not executing solely on outcomes and whims
Be inspired; break habits and norms, and don’t yield
Stop protecting your silo, an unchallenged comfort field
Do great work with a high stake
And get over doing great work for great work’s sake
Embrace data, analytics and information
The primary focus should not be your baseless intuition
Be extremely agile, quick and don’t stall
Lest you get caught riding the proverbial waterfall

In this world of constant change, it’s time to reframe the real value great creativity can bring to business today and to unlock the value creativity plays beyond the walled gardens of the creative department. In the future, creatives will share more with their engineer colleagues on the other side of the studio. They will be agile, will fall in love with the problem (not shiny solution) and will measure the greatness of their work by its true impact, not its cleverness.

This story first appeared in the July 9, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@SR_ Donald Chesnut is global chief experience and creative officer for Publicis.Sapient based in New York.
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