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Tuesday, October 31, 2020

Is Business Creative? Many Think It Is Not

Here's an interesting point from the blog "Presentation Zen." The article is called Creativity, presentations, and "design thinking", and is about making business presentations. But I believe what it says applies much more widely to business attitudes in general. The author describes giving a presentation to college students like this:
When I asked for a show of hands, most said they were not particularly 'creative.' After all, they said, they are not designers or artists, they are business students. Then I asked them if they thought creating and delivering a business presentation or a conference presentation was 'a creative endeavor' or something requiring a creative process. Only a few felt that it was.
If this represents a common situation, and not one where chance brought together an odd set of students, it suggests our business education system has some serious flaws. Because if business students think they do not need to be creative, what does that say about the future of our organizations? That they will need only dedicated followers, doing whatever a small cadre of leaders tell them to do? That repeating what is done today, only with greater efficiency, is all that will be needed to stay in front of the rest of the world? Don't make me laugh!

Creativity is too often seen as the preserve of "arty types" and "geeks and weirdoes" who must be kept safely in specific departments, like design, IT, or marketing, and not allowed to interfere with the serious, practical process of running a business.
I suspect the attitude of this student group is not at all uncommon. Creativity is too often seen as the preserve of "arty types" and "geeks and weirdoes" who must be kept safely in specific departments, like design, IT, or marketing, and not allowed to interfere with the serious, practical process of running a business. That is for people who don't allow themselves to be lead astray by such frivolous kinds of impractical self-indulgence.

Who says that leadership is only about managing existing process and making administration run smoothly? Who believes that we already know all we need to know about how to do it well? If that is what the managers and leaders of tomorrow believe, they must be learning it from somewhere, and the only places will be either their MBA courses or current managers. Heaven help our industry if its leaders go on thinking they don't need to be creative to succeed. They couldn't do anything more calculated to hand over an unassailable advantage to just about every overseas business you can imagine.

The author of the article that started this piece goes on to praise Stanford Business School (and the Silicon Valley area in general) for being an exception to this dead-head attitude to creativity in business. Let's hope he is correct.


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