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Creativity in workplace
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Study: Enhancing creativity in the workplace

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Our latest white paper shares new global research based on 7000 employee surveys in the US, Brazil, UK, Germany, Australia, Singapore and China, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. We look at questions like: Can anyone be creative? How do employers build creative cultures? Is playing at work the answer? What are the business rewards of inspiring creativity—and the risks of failing to?

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Study: Enhancing creativity in the workplace

  1. 1. Creativity: How Business Gets to Eureka! A Global Research Study from Jack Morton Worldwide
  2. 2. 5 Creativity isn’t just for artists and poets— it’s vital to business. And business leaders are increasingly recognising not just that creative thinking is important, it’s a differentiator: “As deep knowledge becomes a common asset, creativity will be the differentiating factor. Creativity is not a ‘nice-to-have’ attribute anymore, it’s a prerequisite for performance, development and growth—supporting us in our ability to innovate and drive change faster and better.” –Ben de Vries, Head of Brand Management, Ericsson But creative thinking doesn’t happen without people who take risks. People who believe in and doggedly push forward big ideas. These are the people who are the driving force behind new discoveries, new products, new ways of working, new solutions and ultimately new business. 30-Second Summary So where do creative business people come from? They’re not as rare as you think. Research suggests that we all have the ability to think creatively, but the likelihood that we will is greatly influenced by the external conditions. In other words, it requires the right working culture and environment. In this article we explore the conditions that impact creative thinking—positively and negatively—and their impact on business, based on proprietary research conducted in early 2014. We asked thousands of people in business across eleven nations, on five continents: • Do employers actively create environments and cultures conducive to creative thinking? • To what degree do companies support and reward creative-thinking individuals? • Does the reality of our current business environment—fast-paced, focused on immediate results—still provide the space for ground- breaking ideas? Is it enough to schedule a brainstorm and expect you will have things wrapped up? • Do people consider themselves to be creative and would they change jobs for the opportunity to work for a company that encourages and supports creative thinking? We believe creative thinking can transform business. And companies can help make this happen by understanding and optimising the conditions that support creativity in the workplace. This article, and the research it showcases, is intended to give readers actionable directions and the inspiration to enhance those conditions and increase creativity, results and the attraction and retention of talent in their business.
  3. 3. Contents 1 Preface 2 About the Study 3 Key Insights 7 Key Takeaways 14 Global Rank 18 About Jack Morton
  4. 4. 1 • Creativity requires care and attention and the kind of culture that talks about it, cares about it and celebrates it. • Creativity involves risk. Our mantra is: be brave. I hope the following study inspires more creativity in your work—and please share your feedback and experiences with us. Josh McCall is Chairman & CEO of Jack Morton Worldwide. In business, nothing is more powerful than creativity. Creativity has the potential to inspire change, to transform how we work, how we see the world, how we think and how we feel. But there’s so much that’s misunderstood about creativity—even in industries that are supposed to be all about it. That in a nutshell is why we at Jack Morton commissioned the study you’re about to read. Years ago, as a marketing student, I was struck by this passage from David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man: “The creative process requires more than reason. Most original thinking isn’t even verbal. It requires ‘a groping experimentation with ideas, governed by intuitive hunches and inspired by the unconscious.’ The majority of business men are incapable of original thinking because they are unable to escape from the tyranny of reason. Their imaginations are blocked.” At the time, this statement—a vintage example of Ogilvy’s flair for the brilliant truth overstated for dramatic effect— mostly made me feel sorry for all those rigid business men stuck in the “tyranny of reason”. I also thought, “Thank goodness they can hire professional creatives to solve their problems.” Now I realize that none of us— especially those of us with “creative” in our titles or at the heart of our business—can afford to take creativity for granted. We may not all be professional creatives, but we all need to strive to bring creativity to our professions. We have to understand creativity better—thus the research that follows. And we have to believe in and advocate creativity and create the kind of culture that fosters and inspires creative thinking. As an ideas-led brand experience agency, we believe • Creativity is what separates effective brand experiences from the merely acceptable—because creativity is more effective at reaching and inspiring people. The way to people’s minds and wallets is through their hearts. Preface “None of us can afford to take creativity for granted.” By Josh McCall
  5. 5. 2 CREATIVITY: How Business Gets to Eureka! is based on an online survey sponsored by Jack Morton Worldwide and conducted by OnePoll during March 2014. Respondents were employed and aged 18 and older. The findings are statistically significant at a 90% confidence level. We spoke to more than 7,000 people in 11 markets: • Australia • Brazil • China • Egypt • Germany • Hong Kong • Saudi Arabia • Singapore • United Arab Emirates • United Kingdom • United States Survey respondents were provided the following definitions: Creative thought is defined as: solutions to problems that are unexpected in any field of work, not just within traditionally creative fields such as writing, design or the performing arts. Business success is defined as: the growth in profit, external recognition of the company (in terms of measures such as industry standing amongst peers and clients, media profile and award recognition) and internal recognition (in terms of measures such as employee engagement, retention and recruitment). About the Study
  6. 6. 3 Key Insights 86% • But just 26% strongly agree their working culture encourages creative thinking. • Nearly half of employees (45%) lack confidence that their company formally rewards creativity. It’s been reported that some experts have highlighted a problem in business leaders paying lip service to the importance of creative thinking yet still making board level decisions based on the bottom line. They may say they value creative thinking, they may even recruit for it at lower levels of the company, yet the degree to which it is central to their business is doubtful.2 The potential loss to business that fails to support creative thinking is great. The good news: companies can choose to change this—later in this paper we will outline what they can do to achieve this. But first, an essential step to inspiring more support for creative thinking in business is an increased understanding of both how creative thinking works and who can do it. Creative thinking has obvious business benefits. We know instinctively that it’s crucial to innovation and growth. But it’s also the cornerstone of talent recruitment and retention 63% of employees say the opportunity to work within a company that encourages creative thinking would be a key motivator in accepting a new position. So inevitably it’s a key concern for leadership. An IBM Global CEO study1 found that “CEOs selected creativity as the most important leadership attribute.” And it asserted: “Creative leaders invite disruptive innovation, encourage others to drop outdated approaches and take balanced risks.” So we know creative thinking is important—but is it being sufficiently prioritised? The research suggests it’s not. There’s a significant gap between employees’ hunger to be creative and leadership support for creative thinking: • An overwhelming majority of employees (91%) agree creative thinking is critical for the success of business. • Almost as many (86%) believe creative thinking increases sales. believe creative thinking increases sales.
  7. 7. 4 How does creative thinking work? People may still talk of actively switching on the right (or creative) side of the brain, but many neuroscientists now believe that creative thinking works in a far less on-demand and convenient way. It is thought that creative thinking works by making new connections between previously stored pieces of information. Sometimes called “intelligent memory”3 , it feels like a flash of inspiration or a Eureka! moment–but this birth of a brand new idea consists of old elements. And these Eureka! moments, of course, often happen when we’re doing something other than trying to have an idea. We could be taking a walk, having a shower, lying in the park— anything other than sitting at our desks. Indeed, our research showed that most people report having their best creative thoughts during leisure time at home. We feel flashes of inspiration during what appears to be down-time because the mind is relaxed and wandering, free of any expectations of a solution and more open to combining different thoughts. This meditative “presence of mind” is a state that can be learned— and indeed meditation techniques are increasingly being brought to the corporate world. “Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?” – Albert Einstein
  8. 8. 5 Can anyone think creatively? We may be able to train ourselves to achieve “presence of mind”, but can anyone come up with a great idea? Or are some people more likely to think creatively than others? Certainly some of us are more creatively talented and inclined than others and as a result, there’s still a pervasive business belief that “creative thinking should be left to the creatives”– those people whose roles comprise creative duties. But limiting accountability for creative thinking to those select few represents a missed opportunity for business. Why not inspire everyone to think creatively? Why put creativity in a box that few can access? Creative thinking is often associated with “creative personalities”—those people who exude traits stereotypically associated with creative thinking: risk- taking, enjoying change, persistence, emotional volatility and even procrastination. And the more inclined they are to exhibit extremes of these personalities, the more success they are likely to enjoy. On this basis a company full of these “creative personalities” may be brimming with ideas, but socially dysfunctional and heading for self-destruct. But the good news is that we actually do all have the ability to think crea- tively—if we have the will and the necessary support and encouragement at work. Employers should provide that environment of support and know that the vast majority of employees want to think creatively: • Almost three in four (72%) consider themselves to be creative • More than three in four (76%) believe people can learn to think creatively. That is a massive vote of confidence from the people who are the raw materials for business’ next big idea. 72% consider themselves to be creative
  9. 9. 6 What can business do to support creative thinking? The vast majority of employees (79%) say they have their best ideas outside work—but creativity can happen in the office (21% say they’re doing it). So how to inspire more creative thinking—not just at work, but for work, whatever the location? The first priority—since anyone can think creatively—is for business to encourage and support all staff. Secondly, business leaders need to orchestrate culture and practices to align with how creative thinking actually works: • Only 20% think ground-breaking ideas are frequently created under pressure. • The most commonly cited barrier (32%) is lack of time. Therein lies the contradiction at the heart of how many businesses seek to “be creative”: we know we can’t just switch on the creative side of our brain, lock ourselves into a brainstorm and come up with an award-winning idea. Yet that’s the default for many. Almost half (48%) say the primary method of idea creation within their company is brainstorms— which encourage people to think in a “closed” way. Their very nature demands logical thinking and narrows our field of thought. What’s the alternative? We may not be able to create more time, but we can create a culture that provides the space for creative thinking all of the time, a culture that feeds our spirits. “The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get to the office.” – Robert Frost
  10. 10. 7 Key Takeaways for Business 44% aren’t confident their company would encourage spontaneous meetings and discussions. 59% say their companies encourage interaction of employees from different fields of expertise. 32% have their best creative thoughts during play or leisure time. 79% have their best ideas outside work. 51% say their company allows them to present and take creative risks. 48% lack confidence their company would allow them the freedom to fail and put forward further ideas. 44% of employees don’t believe their working environment allows the space and inspiration for creative thought. 45% aren’t confident their companies would support them in exploring creative inspiration outside the office. 45% of employees aren’t confident that their company formally rewards creativity. 63% would move jobs to work within a company that encourages creative thinking. Collaboration Play Freedom to fail Ego support Space to thinkIdea Collection
  11. 11. 8 1. Collaboration To feed creative thinking you have to be exposed to other people’s creative ideas—so sharing ideas at work should be encouraged both informally and through more formal platforms. We’ve all sparked new ideas from conversations we weren’t expecting, with people who have different experiences and perspectives-- so encourage and enable staff to meet informally around the office. Getting away from our desks and the problems we are currently grappling with gives our minds the opportunity to be more open to making new connections and reaching Eureka! It’s a fix many need to make: 44% of employees aren’t confident their company would encourage spontaneous meetings and discussions. And more formally encouraging employees to share and contribute across both their teams and more diverse fields of work can be a great way of stimulating collaborative creativity and innovation.4 And companies should find ways to help collaboration, no matter the obstacles - Graeme McEwan, Group Director of Communications and Brand, Standard Life: “Collaboration is the catalyst for creativity. But, arguably, most modern office spaces aren’t designed to cater for collaboration, and so creativity becomes isolated and sporadic. Standard Life’s operations are worldwide, from North America to Europe to India and Asia. To help foster better collaboration, we’ve been investing in digital technology to connect our people across the group, regardless of where in the world they work. By doing this, we’re encouraging our people to open up their ideas, learning and experience to help others so that creativity, and the rewards that it brings, can be shared throughout the group.” 44% of employees aren’t confident their company would encourage spontaneous meetings and discussions.
  12. 12. 9 2. Play It isn’t just children that learn through play; it’s important for adults, too. According to the LEGO Foundation: “Play is critical to learning, to devel- opment and to creativity in people of all ages, but the understanding of play’s impact is still not widespread and therefore not leveraged to its full potential. Creativity is one of the skills most sought-after by today’s business leaders, but we lose creativity over the course of our lifetimes instead of building it. If we don’t appreciate the risk-taking, imagination, and experimentation of play as something that equips and empowers us for a lifetime, the world will suffer from a severe drought of creativity and problem solving.”5 Research links play to creativity and innovation.6 It also stimulates the imagination, increases adaptability and even improves relationships by boosting empathy, trust and cooperation. It makes us more effective at problem-solving together—so yes, there is actually a sound basis for those much derided team-building activities. The elusive goal for business is truly playful play. Psychologists argue that when we’re carried away in the “flow” of play much deep learning occurs.7 As with casual workplace conversations, informal play allows the brain to wander toward that flash of insight. Indeed the largest proportion (32%) of employees says they have their best creative thoughts during play or leisure time. What does workplace play look like outside the expected? Google famously build toys into its working environment. Others offer art or yoga classes, on-site gardening, even “playground” breaks during the working day. “Work will always be with us, and many works are worthy. But the worthiest works of all often reflect an artful creativity that looks more like play than work.” – James Ogilvy
  13. 13. 10 3. Idea Collection It’s one thing feeding inspiration within the office, but it takes a brave employer to encourage staff to seek inspiration outside their own four walls. Almost half (45%) of employees aren’t confident their companies would support them in exploring creative inspiration outside the office. Yet it’s precisely the seemingly unrelated sources of inspiration—other people’s ideas, shows, museums, shops, taking a walk in the park—that can inspire new connections and new thinking. It’s very hard to think creatively on demand. “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” – Steve Jobs
  14. 14. 11 4. Freedom to Fail One of the biggest challenges for business is achieving the actual cultural and organisational change that’s required to provide one of the cornerstones of creativity: giving your people the freedom to fail. What does that take? Staff need to be actively supported when they put forward a new idea. When they do hit on a winning idea, the team takes a collective responsibility to develop and see the idea through to fruition. The reality of cultural conditions is far from supportive: • Whilst half (51%) say their company allows them to present and take creative risks, almost as many (48%) lack confidence their company would allow them the freedom to fail and put forward further ideas. • And (45%) aren’t confident making ideas happen is a shared responsibility in their company. What employee is going to put their neck on the line with a truly brave idea if they fear they’ll be forever held- back by its failure? The most successful ideas people—be they entrepreneurs or scientists or marketers—have many failures before they hit on the winning idea. 48% are not confident their company would allow them the freedom to fail.
  15. 15. 12 5. Space to think Promoting collaboration and idea- sharing goes beyond the cultural— it’s also about the environmental. The space we work in has a great impact on how we feel and how motivated we are to come to work. That’s why brands like Facebook have made enormous investments in their work environments. Yet almost half (43%) of employees are not confident their working environment allows the space and inspiration for creative thought. The ubiquitous open-plan office is often seen as a one-size-fits-all solution to creative sharing. It does, of course, have great potential to be a collaboration enabler through sheer proximity of people to their colleagues. But environmental changes must work hand-in-hand with cultural ones; imposing an open plan design on a non-collaborative culture is a recipe for conflict. People can feel “perilously exposed and constantly worn down by the need to demonstrate unflagging performance in a permanent negotiation with peers, colleagues and associates.”8 It can also be an environment that is so cluttered with stimuli it’s hard to have the space to think. As ad luminary Steve Henry said, “Open-plan offices are an efficient use of space. But they are claustrophobic to work in and you won’t write Mad Men or Silver Linings Playbook while you’re in them”.9 So have an open plan environment, but create alternative areas—meeting rooms, relaxed seating, formal and informal spaces with space to think. 43% of employees are not confident their working environment allows the space and inspiration for creative thought.
  16. 16. 13 6. Ego support And what about once an employee hits on a winning idea? Your hard work in creating a culture and environment that encourages creative thinking will all be for nothing if you don’t publicly recognise and reward the contribution of those originators of great ideas. Yet more than 23% of employees say their company doesn’t formally reward creativity. Even worse, a further 22% are unsure. If staff are unsure whether their creativity will be rewarded, at best their employers aren’t communicating effectively—and at worst, they simply lack any way of recognising and rewarding creative thinking. Should these companies—the combined 55% that lack a rewards program either in reality or in their employees’ minds— be worried? Yes. The two out of every three employees (63%) who would move jobs to work within a company that encourages creative thinking may well be leaving them. 55% are not confident their company formally rewards creativity.
  17. 17. 14 Creative Confidence Global Rank*
  18. 18. % % % 49 66 48 32 53 39 35 36 40 36 50 60 79 69 69 65 55 58 53 67 45 69 Australia Brazil China Egypt Germany Hong Kong Saudi Arabia Singapore UAE UK US 49 70 58 43 51 39 39 42 47 34 51 I am allowed the freedom to fail % % % 75 91 65 48 79 54 62 50 76 56 84 53 73 69 49 58 50 44 52 55 46 62 50 72 54 39 52 44 37 46 54 40 57 I am creative Company culture encourage creative thinking I get space and inspiration from working environment Company rewards creativity I would change jobs for a creative company Creative Confidence Global Rank* % showing positive responses to questions *The rank reflects individual nations’ confidence in their own creative ability and the support their industries offer to creative thinking. It is informed by nine key questions. 15
  19. 19. Australia Brazil China Egypt Germany Hong Kong Saudi Arabia Singapore UAE UK US % % % 85 98 91 99 95 90 95 86 95 78 94 84 95 88 99 88 82 95 86 94 72 92 53 68 53 34 53 45 39 46 51 40 56 Creativity important to company success Creativity important to my role I can present and take creative risks $ $ $ $$$ $ $$$ $ 16 Creative Confidence Global Rank* % showing positive responses to questions
  20. 20. 17 Endnotes 1. IBM Global CEO study 2010. 2. professionals-blog/2012/feb/20/can-creativity-save-business-world 3. Barry Gordon, Lisa Berger (2003). Intelligent Memory: Improve the Memory That Makes You Smarter. Viking Adult. 4. Miller, Fern & Cardinal (2007). The use of knowledge for technological innovation within diversified firms. Academy of Management Journal. 5. The LEGO Foundation is dedicated to build a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. In 2013, the LEGO Foundation developed a report on how to develop a Culture of Creativity. Cultures of Creativity (2013): research/ 6. Patrick Bateson and Paul Martin (2013). Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation. Cambridge University Press. 7. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row. 8. Collaborative Encounters Movement:,.reset,.exclude 9.
  21. 21. Talk to Jack Contact Melinda Lindland SVP New Business and Group Account Director Read our blog at Follow us on twitter @jackmorton Visit us online at About Jack Morton We’re an award-winning brand experience agency that turns brands into verbs and transforms customer experience into a competitive asset. We make brilliant things happen for our clients. We do that by bringing together brave, creative people who are true believers in the power of experience to transform brands and businesses. We’re experts in brand experience strategy and activation. Our clients look to us to define and understand how their brands should behave in the marketplace, and create experiences that bring their brands to life. Our portfolio of award-winning work spans 75 years and clients like GM, Subway, Samsung and Verizon in areas like event marketing, retail experience, digital, social, mobile, sponsorship and employee engagement. Our team works together across 22 locations all around the world. We’re also part of one of the world’s leading marketing holding companies, Interpublic (NYSE: IPG), and experienced collaborators with a global network of best-in-class partners. © Jack Morton Worldwide 2014 18
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Our latest white paper shares new global research based on 7000 employee surveys in the US, Brazil, UK, Germany, Australia, Singapore and China, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. We look at questions like: Can anyone be creative? How do employers build creative cultures? Is playing at work the answer? What are the business rewards of inspiring creativity—and the risks of failing to?


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