Creativity and the Future of Business: Why It’s No Surprise CEOs Rank Creativity as the #1 Leadership Quality
In a recent, much-referenced study conducted by IBM Global Business Services, a group of over 1,500 CEOs in 60 nations and 33 industries agreed that “creativity” is now the most important leadership quality for success in business.
Not "global focus," not "integrity," not even much heralded "sustainability." But "creativity."
Steven Tomasco, of IBM Global Business Services, found the result surprising, considering that we have just come out of (hopefully) an historic economic downturn the likes of which most of these CEOs have never experienced in their professional lives.
In terms of actual percentages, 60% of those surveyed ranked “creativity” in the #1 spot. Second was “integrity.” (With all due respect to Steven Tomasco,we would suggest this is the more surprising result in this era of “the end justifies the means” corporate management.)
In fact, for those fortunate enough to have had access to the crystal ball of business success over the past several years, in our new “innovation economy,” that "creativity" holds the #1 spot is hardly surprising. In fact, it is expected.
If there is a secret of business success today, it is the willingness and ability to continually reinvent one's value proposition, deliver ever-increasing value to customers and recognize that the consumer calls the shots—every shot.
Consider that 88% of CEOs surveyed also ranked “getting closer to the customer” as the #1 area of focus, followed closely by “people skills” (81%) and “insights and intelligence” (76%).
Creativity, people skills, insights/intelligence… it all boils down to a consumer-driven success model.
The dominant businesses in today's marketplace understand this. They work diligently to stay one step ahead of the consumer’s need. It’s no longer about the ability to respond—it’s about the need to anticipate. Give your customers what they want—before they even know they want it—and you will rise to the top of the competitive corporate food chain. Fail to do so, even for a moment, and prepare to fall, rapidly.
So what does creativity have to do with all of this? Why is it necessary to “think outside the box” in order to meet consumer demand?
Because your customers don’t have a clue what they will want tomorrow—even though they want it now. And they are not going to tell you; that’s too much work. They want you to tell them; and when they see it, they’ll know it. Tell them what they want, and if you are correct, you win the brass ring. And if you don’t, someone else most certainly will.
There’s a bit of alchemy involved in this, the ability to ask, “What if?”
“What if my customers had <fill in the blank>? How would it make their lives better, easier, more productive?”
This business model is not for the faint of heart. It is not built upon market data (backwards focused), proven successes (backwards focused) or established business practices (backwards focused). It is built upon vision...and the ability to manifest it.
Apple understands. So does Google. Microsoft did once. So did AOL and iomega and countless others who have tripped, stumbled and gone plummeting off the front pages of the business press. Business success means redefining oneself daily. These surveyed corporate leaders know this, even if they are not presently doing it. Those who will ultimately act upon it will be around to respond to the next IBM survey. Those who don’t???
What if? That is the pressing question. Can you provide the answer?