Why does modern business need creative collaboration?

22 November 2017

Posted By artgym


Does creativity matter more in the 21st Century, and how can collaboration unlock innovation.


When we’re talking to business leaders about their ambitions we hear the word innovation all the time. In a world where success is more frequently falling to disruptors rather than the continuation of the status quo, the ability to innovate is the avant-garde marker of competitiveness.

Large, traditional companies are encouraging their people to ‘think like a start-up’ – eight in ten R&D execs said their household name firm had introduced lean, start-up approaches in a 2016 survey for HBR.

You can perhaps imagine the quizzical faces of employees of a long-established firm when being told they need to think disruptively, live-and-breathe innovation, and that they all have a role in shaping the firm’s future. Why? Isn’t that the job of the genius inventors in the basement? Not anymore – let us explain why.

We think modern innovation happens at the synergy between creativity and collaboration.

Creativity is no longer an individual pursuit. When asked to think of influential creatives; Picasso, Shakespeare and Mozart fall from the tongue – but talent so profound is rare, and even more rarely still does it translate into modern business. Creatives of that ilk were often quarrelsome people that probably wouldn’t make you coffee, or share ideas with you. A firm can hire the next design prodigy, sure, but that’s often not where truly effective innovation comes from.

That’s why the other side of the coin is so key to innovation – the ability to collaborate. The complex eco-system of a modern organisation means creativity cannot happen without co-operation between a vast array of skillsets, expertise and approaches. No longer the realm of engineers and scientists, new innovation needs anthropologists, usability experts, ethicists, coders, cultural semanticists, the list goes on.

Producing breakthrough ideas from such different but co-dependent disciples is one of the biggest challenges for today’s leaders for two main reasons.

The first is the history of creativity. Often painted as a binary – ‘you’re either creative or not’, people can struggle to break through their own dogma and allow their ideas to flow.

The second is because collaboration itself is difficult. Think back to brainstorms you’ve been involved in – they frequently fizzle out and the ideas produced are usually not that amazing. Distractions, personalities and egos can also be difficult to manage, especially now everyone has one eye on their device.

The good news is that when done right, collaboration unlocks creativity. You don’t need to be ‘a creative’ to play a role in developing a company’s next big idea. Given the right conditions, space, technology and support ideas can germinate, and groups can achieve a collective state of flow, losing track of time, absorbed in the task at hand.

In his book Group Genius, Keith Sawyer uses the analogy of a jazz band to describe this state and suggests that it is more achievable than we might believe.

Facilitation of the state of group flow is a new skill for business and society that will play a big part in shaping success in the modern world. It’s not one that we’ve been taught before – psychology traditionally focussed on the individual, but now we’re learning more about group thinking and this new way of conceptualising the sources of inspiration and innovation is proving amazingly effective in today’s hyper-competitive environment. At artgym our mission is to promote the importance of collaborative creativity and share the skills amongst visionary business leaders – our advanced diploma is part of realising that mission.

By Louise Austin, Course Director, Artgym Academy

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