Get creative in the boardroom to boost your business strategy

Get creative in the boardroom to boost your business strategy

With the emphasis on data at board level, it can be all too easy to forget about creativity. James Trowman, Partner and General Manager at The Frameworks, argues that although data and analytical thinking feels safe, it should not mean that creativity is pushed to one side. He talks about the importance of creativity in the boardroom and how companies can encourage creative thinking.

Today’s boardrooms have a problem. As data looms ever larger in strategic conversations, creativity is having to fight for space. And we’re starting to see the impact, with many stagnant businesses struggling to swim amid changing tides.

I get it. Analytical thinking feels safe, and data looks impressive on screen, while creativity can seem risky. More often than not, business leaders are at home with facts and numbers, and we have exciting technology at our fingertips to crunch them.

Creativity, on the other hand, relies on our imagination to form future assumptions, explore abstract ideas and build human connections. It can feel highly personal. Exposing, even.

No wonder boardrooms push creativity aside in favour of cold, hard analytics. But we can’t leave the biggest business decisions to data alone.

Break from old patterns

When you’re building a business strategy, creative thinking is critical to deciphering what you need to do, achieve and change to succeed. It’s the key to differentiating your company from competitors and unlocking new opportunities. It feeds the kind of bold decisions that separate the wheat from the chaff.

There’s nothing wrong with analytical thinking. Using existing data to analyse the past actions and behaviours of your company, customers and competitors is foundational. But that data can’t tell you what will happen tomorrow, or in five years’ time. Or what could happen if you broke from old patterns.

You can’t plot a course into the future by looking backwards. Whether envisioning a shift in customer behaviour or predicting the rise of a new technology, boardrooms need to think creatively to imagine what the future could be and focus their strategy and innovation pipeline accordingly.

The world we’re in today is rapidly changing, from advances in AI to geopolitical tidal waves. Now more than ever, businesses need to adapt and grow, and creativity is fundamental to that.

Unearthing ideas

Adopting a more creative mindset at the top table has another bonus: it can fuel passion among leaders and employees. Successful businesses are born and raised on people’s passions, and when leaders allow themselves to be creative – to back bold ideas and challenge the status quo – their teams follow.

Set from the very top, a culture of creativity can quickly permeate the wider company to unearth diverse and differentiated thinking and transformative ideas. Creativity empowers employees, encourages collaboration and gives individuals a shared purpose, which also helps boost retention and morale.

The Frameworks is a creative agency, but when we partner with clients to build a business strategy, it’s not our job to bring all the ideas. We know amazing ideas already exist within the company; we’re there to tease them out. That’s what harnessing a culture of creativity and innovation is all about.

Always be essential

Creativity means never settling, always pushing and striving for differentiation. Many businesses get stuck doing what they’ve always done and hoping their good luck will continue. But companies need to constantly think about how they can position themselves as market leaders and carve out a real competitive advantage.

One of IBM’s mantras is ‘be essential’. That’s why our long-term client isn’t simply churning out new computers and software, but always anticipating what customers need, from building mechanical tabulating machines for punched cards, through developing the PC, to now providing hybrid cloud and AI services. There’s a lesson to all of us in thinking creatively to remain essential to customers now and in the future.

Data has its place, for sure. But embracing creativity is essential to a business aiming to lead and disrupt markets. No matter what industry or size of business, it’s the surest way to uncover new opportunities to delight your audiences.

There’s no business in the world that isn’t capable of bringing creativity into the boardroom and achieving much bolder results. Maybe your organisation can lead that journey from within, or perhaps you need an external partner to guide you.

The greatest risk

Yes, a creative mindset can feel risky. But the greatest risk is standing still while others race ahead. If you choose to stay safe and resist change, those businesses thinking creatively about their own strategy will eat your lunch.

The reality is that business strategy is fundamentally a creative exercise. Don’t be afraid of that.

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