It sounds fairly intuitive that creativity and innovation would be important to a company, especially a startup that looks to break into an emerging market. It’s what sets you apart from your competitors, allows you to attract and retain the best talent, and enables you to respond to changes within the market and society at large. Creativity is praised across the board in startup culture, and it’s fairly well documented that startups are more innovative than more established companies.
This could be for a number of reasons. Startups may attract people that are more creative, and then subsequently retain them. They may also foster a culture of innovation with a diverse set of voices, and encourage team members to add in their own. Or it could be reflective of the types of industries that are overrepresented in the startup community, such as tech, which are more attractive to creative types.
Regardless of the reasons, I think we can all agree that creativity has a prominent place in the startup world. Startups are lauded as the most innovative parts of nearly every sector, and are seen as the driving force that moves the entire sector towards innovation. But what advantages does creativity bring to the table?
Role and Impact of Creativity Within a Business
A recent study examined the role of creativity within a business and its impact on the bottom line. As noted, creativity is an important factor in many of the goals that a startup has. A culture of innovation that attracts and retains top talent and is able to respond to a changing market requires creative leadership and perspective. But can we directly link creativity to profit and revenue? This study found that companies that embrace creativity do outperform their peers on key business indicators such as profit, revenue growth, and talent acquisition.
82% of the studied companies believe that there is a strong connection between creativity and business results, but only 39% thought that their own company is creative. Only 11% thought that their company is highly creative. We’re left with a gap between expectations and reality when it comes to creativity. This study included both startup and more established companies, so we can assume that creativity is more prevalent in startups for our purposes.
Business leaders agree that creativity is an important factor in establishing and growing a market share and in making their products and services more attractive to customers. This has a direct impact on profits and customer retention. When an entrepreneur wants to enter the marketplace, their goal is usually to offer a new and innovative solution to an existing problem that they see presented. Whether this means a new cloud-based system or a new take on a well-loved food product, you’ll need to establish what makes you different from products already on the market.
Creativity allows you to differentiate yourself and your product. Too many startups have failed because they were unable to market and sell the value they provide to potential customers. This isn’t to say that all failed startups should’ve been more creative or that they weren’t creative at all, but rather to emphasize the role of creativity in marketing and branding.
Creativity Attracts Top Talent
Creativity can also play a role in attracting and retaining top talent. Millennial workers are quickly moving into their place as the largest workforce in the country. Already, more than 53 million Millennials are in the workforce, and that number will continue to rise as Baby Boomers exit the market. Of course, other generations value creativity and innovation, but fewer identify creativity as a key value or view themselves as creative individuals.
At the risk of oversimplification, Millennials are attracted to organizations that share their values. A recent Deloitte survey found that 70% of Millennials believe that their personal values are shared with the organization they work for. A full 73% of Millennials consider themselves to be creative, so we can see where creativity becomes a desirable workplace attribute. Attracting these workers is difficult enough, but retaining them is even more so. A recent Deloitte survey found that 66% of Millennials expect to leave their current job by 2020.
Fostering an attractive workplace culture takes time and careful attention. The first people you surround yourself with in the startup’s infancy will tend to reflect the later company culture as you grow and expand. Make these first few hiring decisions really count.
Warren Bennis, a pioneer in the field of leadership studies, said on creativity, “The organizations of the future will increasingly depend on the creativity of their members to survive. Great Groups offer a new model in which the leader is an equal among Titans. In a truly creative collaboration, work is pleasure, and the only rules and procedures are those that advance the common cause.” The common cause, the success of your startup, is measured through key indicators such as profit, and also through less tangible indicators such as enjoyment and passion.
We know that startup leaders are more prone to burn out than leaders in more established companies, and it is often passion and one’s love for the work that they do that sustains them in these tough times. Fostering and nurturing that passion requires that you give yourself space to flex your creative muscles and try things out.
Creativity accompanies failure and success. The creative and innovative options in the business world are easily written off as risks, but only by taking hold of your fear of failure can you give yourself room to either fail or succeed. Successful startups are the ones that are able to differentiate themselves from similar products and showcase their uniqueness in a way that resonates with customers. While branding and marketing incorporate both established elements and innovation, creativity needs to be at the heart of your business strategy.