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Beyond the design studio: How creative thinking could save big business

Lee McCormack, CEO of MyGlobalHome highlights that for businesses to be successful they should be placing creativity at the heart of company culture.

Lee McCormack, MyGlobalHome

CEO

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There has historically been a divide in the way we think about ‘creative people’ and their place within the world of business. Organisations in traditional ‘service’ fields especially, have long cultivated an image of the executive leader in the blue suit being worlds away in nature, thought and process from the creative individual, who, whilst having their place, would rarely be presented as the company figurehead, or representative of its way of thinking or working.

Beyond this image of the creative individual and their approach somehow not ‘fitting in’ to traditional business roles, there is a perceived risk when it comes to creative thinking within businesses. That is, that the tried and tested ways of doing things have to be right first time, and that any deviation from this could lead to disaster. Or at least, that it is just as easy to be recognised for one’s contribution by following the rulebook than it is to think outside of the box.

That is not to say that large, established businesses don’t try to tackle problems, seek out opportunities or think strategically, but rather that they tend to do so within the confines of established, dogmatic methodologies. Through the nature of the corporate hierarchy and hiring practices, individuals and teams are put together and innately nudged to work and think in certain ways, following a proven path. This leaves little room for flexibility and variety, in turn, stifling innovation, which can lead to companies being left behind or caught out during times of rapid change.

Arguably, these factors have evolved from a complete misunderstanding of the creative class, their training and thought processes. To put it another way, big business fears creativity because it doesn’t understand it.

The global pandemic has shone a light on the importance of agility in business.

Lee McCormack

Putting creative thinking at the heart of the business

The creative process is about problem solving. The art of creative thinking, the techniques which are taught in design schools, focus on understanding the strategies needed to overcome obstacles, ultimately recognising that these obstacles should not be feared but when taken into consideration, can lead to better outcomes and better solutions. The creative process, whether formally taught or innately understood, is ethnographic in nature, focusing on watching and learning from user behaviour and needs. It is diligent and robust and couldn’t be further away from freewheeling ‘creativity for creativity’s sake’ analogy that has come to define the creative industry and provoked its separation from the formality of ‘big business’. In addition, the benefits of understanding, recognising and implementing the creative process not only leads to better problem solving, but builds empathy, resilience and confidence, values which are hugely beneficial within business structures.

There are of course established companies which understand this value and situate creative thinking at the heart of their business culture. Good examples, often founded by individuals with non-traditional backgrounds, include the Virgin Group, which famously encouraged every team member to contribute ideas, however ‘bold’ these ideas were and regardless of the individuals’ position within the organisation. This led to a ‘fail fast’ mindset, and experimental approach that has no doubt contributed to the strength of the Virgin brand.

Then there is this new breed of technology-driven companies which have changed the world by understanding the importance of creative thinking and how it can lead to innovation. Tesla and Amazon, despite being founded by individuals with fairly traditional, business suitable, backgrounds, Jeff Bezos worked in technology for a systematic hedge-fund before founding Amazon, have pioneered innovation in their respective sectors, becoming some of the world’s most valuable companies in the process. These companies have set the tone for how creative thinking and structured experimentalism, when situated within the frameworks of problem solving and customer need, can yield extraordinary results. Jeff Bezos is famed for his ‘Day 1’ methodology, treating each day as an opportunity to re-invent and innovate, whilst Elon Musk has encouraged broad hiring practices within his group, seeking out individuals with diverse personal and professional backgrounds, despite the highly technical nature of the products being built.

The global pandemic has shone a light on the importance of agility in business. Companies which were too set in their ways have been caught on the backfoot. Traditional retail has been decimated and the banking sector uprooted by bright start-ups. Going forward, it will be more important than ever to structure companies around new ways of working and to implement frameworks which not only recognise the value of creative thinking within an organisation, but actively encourage the contribution of talents with diverse backgrounds to complement the organisation community and its skill sets. Doing so will not only help businesses navigate through the tricky waters of change but will put them in a good position to perform in the future.

Guest Author

Lee McCormack, MyGlobalHome

CEO,

About

Lee McCormack is a British product designer, author, technology strategist and serial entrepreneur. Passionate about the intersecting worlds of wellness and design - interests he honed whilst practising as a Buddhist Monk in Asia – Lee has worked with businesses as varied as Dell and McLaren F1, to understand how our environments impact our performance, alongside launching the award wellbeing pods Oculas, Ovei and Orrb wellbeing pods. His latest project is MyGlobalHome, a technology platform for the smart home aiming to shape the future of living.

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