The CEO as cornerstone for Creativity
“What distinguishes a leader from a follower is innovation.” Steve Jobs
In recent months, many companies managed to quickly adapt to the particular conditions imposed by the market by offering new products or services. Some companies have even managed to reinvent themselves, such as Michelin-starred restaurants who deliver meals, a card game manufacturer who produces masks or museums who organize virtual cultural.
There are many examples of successful creative entrepreneurship during the Corona crisis. However, business leaders need to stay focused because the challenges that companies face are real. Many companies in Belgium rely on creativity and innovation to grow and even survive. However, they are aware that the path to get there is not easy.
On this 21st of April – the UN’s World Creativity and Innovation Day – I am more than ever convinced that companies have no choice: if they want to remain competitive in a world of constant change (VUCA), they have to develop creativity as an essential state of mind. Only by using creative thinking, instilling it and developing it consciously and systematically in their processes and in their teams, can business leaders help their company make a difference.
Creativity and innovation do not fall from the sky. Creative entrepreneurship is too often considered to be the result of a sudden inspiration. This is not the case. Creativity needs to be nurtured and stimulated. I mentioned earlier the concept of “mindset”. Creativity is a cultural issue that requires the genuine support of managers. Regardless of the size or type of the company, whether it’s a pharmaceutical giant such as Pfizer or an innovative, high-growth company such as Univercells, today’s business leaders need to develop, fund and promote programs to increase the creative capabilities of their company and their teams.
CEOs must do more than just talk about creativity. They must also – and most importantly – take the necessary steps to turn words into action. Creativity needs to be on the agenda of all departments and integrated into all levels of business processes. As for CEOs and their management team, they must naturally inspire their entire organization in terms of creativity, by infusing it into all their decision making.
Let me illustrate this on the basis of a workshop we conducted for the biotech company Univercells Technologies. At the request of the CEO, Hugues Bultot, we brought together HR, IT, Finance, Investment, Supply Chain, Corporate Development and Product Development to determine how they could be a true driver of innovation. He also actively participated in this exciting reflection This request proved to be a very effective way to push his teams to work together, to question themselves and to implement innovative and concrete solutions in their jobs. Creativity and innovation need explicit support from the top of the organization, but it also needs to be widely integrated by and in all departments.
Even in companies where innovation is at the heart of the value proposition, creativity is not innate and yet it is the key to success, now more than ever!
This text has been written by Sarah De Greef, partner of Ouzia, on the occasion of the UN World Creativity & Innovation Day – 04.21