Creativity Drives Business Success

Photo by G. Campbell

Photo by G. Campbell

For years, business leaders have focused on things like employee productivity, process efficiency and workforce planning as the key success drivers for their companies. But over the past few years, the mindset has shifted. Leading companies recognize the importance of another key success driver – the need to infuse creativity into all aspects of business– from strategy and culture, to innovation and customer engagement.

Adobe and Forrester recently conducted a study that found that creative companies – those that encourage creative perspective, practices, and culture – outperform in both revenue growth and market share. 58% of respondents from creative companies said their revenues have strong growth (10%+ year-over-year), vs. only 20% of less-creative firms. And creative companies are 50% more likely to report a commanding market leadership position over competitors.

At the same time, over 61% believe they are working for companies that do not invest in the culture, people, processes or platforms that inspire greater creativity. So how do companies who are at a creative deficit begin adopting a more creative mindset? How do they infuse it into the culture? And how do they make it a part of their programs and practices?

SpinBox 1. Creativity Can Start at the Top

We often assume creativity will take care of itself within the creative or marketing teams. But it’s important to have someone at the top whose core focus is to harness employee creativity so that it never gets lost within the organization. This shows your employees you’re serious about creativity as a major tenet of your culture.

At Adobe we went a step further by institutionalizing innovation through a program called “KickBox,” which gives employees free reign to bring creative ideas to life. Employees who participate receive a red box with everything they need to become an Adobe Innovator inside – $1,000 on a pre-paid credit card with a step-by-step process to originate an innovative new concept. They then use that money to validate their concepts. No proposal. No committees. No approval. They just do it.

2. Set up Disruptive Pilots on Your Established Businesses

Companies often get into “maintenance mode” with their established businesses. These businesses may be your bread and butter but there are always ways to creatively disrupt them to ensure solid performance – well into the future.

One way to do this is develop disruptive pilots for these lines. Adobe’s Creative Suite packaged software was a great success. CS served many happy customers, but we were constrained in how quickly and where we could innovate (we were stuck – literally and figuratively – innovating inside the box). So we designed and tested a subscription based service in Australia. It was a big success and evolved into today’s thriving Creative Cloud business.

These changes carry significant risk, so many companies experiment at the fringes. But we knew we had to get creative (and give ourselves permission to disrupt our own business) if we wanted our core business to grow well into the future.

XDteam 3. Take Risks for Big Reward

Nothing squashes creativity like a risk-averse corporate culture. Management must encourage employees at all levels to innovate and bring the big ideas. Signaling to employees that you are listening and open to innovating is an incredible way to spur creativity. But that’s not all – you must show them you are willing to take risks and make big moves.

Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite started as a custom project designed for one customer and evolved into a full-fledged product that today is a fast growing business. We took a big risk going on a gut feeling that what we designed for one customer would be a valuable solution for a broader market – and it was a win for us and our customers. That won’t always be the case, and when it’s not, you must be willing to fail – and then fast forward.

4. Focus on Experience

In today’s hyper-connected world, customer experience can make or break your business. Design-led innovators have creatively captured new markets by developing a powerful customer experience. Taking a deep look at your product and service practices end-to-end – and not in silos – can be a launch pad for great creative thinking, and will allow you to address your customers’ biggest problems.

When we appointed a VP of Customer Experience and Engagement to oversee our end-to-end user experience – across all of our apps and services – we saw a fundamental change in how we prioritized our product backlogs and engage our customers. Every organization needs a “customer advocate” who is accountable for the end-to-end experience. This is no longer a “nice to have” – customers expect it.


5. Great Ideas Come from Everywhere

Great ideas come from the community of people our businesses work with every day – customers, partners, developers and others. A great way to infuse new, creative ideas into business and product plans is to listen to what your key influencers have to say. They bring fresh perspectives and will come to the table with creative solutions and ideas. Show them that you’re listening and open to their feedback.

A great way to engage the community is to leverage social media to solicit ideas. The Adobe Muse Team has a “Muse Rockstar” program where they send out Adobe merchandise to any Muse community member that goes out of his or her way to help support the larger Muse Community through online forms and social media. It’s been a great way to engage the community of users in a powerful, interactive dialogue. Your influencers want you to engage with them – and you’ll often find some uniquely creative ideas in your social media channels.

Creativity isn’t simply a mandate that gets handed down. It’s something that is fostered, taught and practiced at every level of the organization. It takes practice and patience, but the results are worth the investment. Put simply: Creativity is good business and ultimately drives productivity and efficiency.

David Wadhwani

As former senior vice president and general manager of the Digital Media business unit, David Wadhwani lead Adobe's development of solutions for content publishers, digital artists and storytellers, and application developers. He oversaw the full range of the creative products from core content creation for photography, imaging and video to interactive media to efficiently and richly target the increasing number of mobile devices and Internet-connected televisions. Wadhwani was also responsible for end-to-end media solutions for digital publishing and video distribution and monetization. Wadhwani is a member of the Fine Arts Museums’ Board of Trustees and sits on the Brown University Advisory Committee on Computing and IT. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from Brown University.

David Wadhwani