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The Creativity Imperative: the secret to success for organisations in the 21st century

“Creativity, innovation, imagination, originality, invention, discovery, ‘stepping
outside the box’ … we’ve seen it labelled in a variety of ways. In the business realm, these terms ring alarm bells for some people who prefer to focus almost exclusively on more concrete outcomes like productivity, profit and employee satisfaction (as if the two are somehow mutually exclusive). We can understand this.

At the end of the day, the reality is a tough economic climate, limited resources and time, and the relentless imperative of making a profit (or ‘surplus,’ in not-for-profit parlance). In fact, we’ve been told that the very word ‘creativity’ is repellent to some people. It has a reputation in certain circles for consuming too much time, coming over ‘fluffy,’ and lacking sufficient impact, enough ‘punch,’ to deliver practical and profitable outcomes.

As creative individuals, of course we value creativity intrinsically. But we also
recognise that we need a compelling argument to convince skeptics of its potential role in achieving their goals, whether these relate to the very real issues of profit, growth, productivity, competitive advantage, market leadership, or recruitment and retention of quality employees.

In fact, we contend (and not without a great deal of evidence) that creativity is now the most important strategic priority for business. As was the case with its predecessors – quality control, customer service, best practice and benchmarking – the majority of businesses are beginning to recognise that they must get on the ‘creativity bandwagon’ if they wish to prosper, or even survive.

In North America and Europe, creativity is already well recognised as a critical factor in the success of businesses of all kinds. However, this trend has been slower to gain traction in Australia, and especially here in South Australia, where there exists a much more risk-averse culture.

In constructing our argument about the value of cultivating creativity, we have focused on three key issues. The first is what we actually mean when we talk about ‘creativity’ and the associated concept of ‘innovation’.

What are the clear definitions? Secondly, just why are creativity and innovation so important in the current local, national, and global context? And finally, what are the tangible benefits that can arise from higher levels of creativity and innovation? And what evidence do we have to demonstrate these benefits?”