Creativity & Design: Pillars for Business Growth

Many innovation experts like Guy Kawasaki (Apple fellow and Chief Innovation Evangelist for Canva), would agree that the ability to generate a diverse set of business options through new ideas is a central feature of innovation. This is applicable to all sectors and, as such, is central to sustained economic growth. Being a former Gartner employee myself, I had the privilege to attend one of Mr. Kawasaki keynotes at one of the Gartner Summits and I was inspired. This was a couple of years ago, but it isn't until now that I am immersed in the creative industry that his speech has acquired a new level of understanding.

Design, as a structured creative process, is an important competitive tool for companies in many sectors, although design activities can take many forms across those different sectors.

Most publications agree with the fact that the UK has led the world in recognising the significance of creativity and design. The Design Council was set up in 1944 for example but nonetheless, intensifying cross border competition, rapid changes in technology, changing customer demands and the new Brexit economic landscape are placing new urgency on the need for innovation. However even these are proven facts, the Design Council does state that the UK’s underlying creative strength and body of design expertise are now seen as a possibly under-utilised source of competitive advantage.

According to the Design Council's publications, the UK has an internationally competitive design agency sector and a strong design education base. Nonetheless, surveys carried out by the office of National Statistics show that only 41 per cent of manufacturers and 6 per cent of businesses in trade and leisure services see design as an integral pillar of their business. Over half of UK enterprises say design has no role or only a limited role to play in their sector. This suggests that greater links should exist between the UK design industry and companies in other sectors.

Although creativity, design and innovation has been recognised as being a vital pillar to business success and a lot of very successful modern business models like the likes of Uber and Airbnb are Creative-led businesses ( and hence, have design and innovation embedded in their core), it is the more formal, established and legacy enterprises that tend to nurture channels of creative input only (if not exclusively) though their Marketing, Branding and Digital departments.

These more established businesses, according to Kawasaki, are finding it a lot harder to incorporate creativity, design and innovation into their business culture. In part, this might be due to the nature of creativity, which is difficult to identify and quantify, and these two last modes tend to be extremely important in the corporate enterprise world. However, the way forward, according to Kawasaki (noted in his presentation "The Art of Innovation"), creativity and design, used effectively, are important competitive tools for all businesses regardless of sector or industry.

During this research I have found that a variety of evidence supports the role of design, creativity and innovation in enhancing company/enterprise/business performance. Research undertaken by Forrester also shows that firms with higher design intensity have a greater probability of carrying out innovation and that design expenditure has a positive association with the company's productivity growth.

I will be bold and state that Creativity & Design are the key ingredients which will boost the UK’s economy and make us gain the competitive advantage post Brexit. If this is indeed the case, many businesses will need to ask themselves if creativity & design are in fact fundamental pillars of their growth strategy.

If the answer is no, perhaps there is still time for them to revisit their action plans.

Ally Mansell-Cook
Ally Mansell-Cook

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