Light-Bulb Moments: Harnessing Creative Thoughts in Business

Author Bob Caporale explains how to turn creative ideas into actionable business strategies.
Customer Experience

Google. Apple. Amazon. Many of today's most successful enterprises are led by highly creative thinkers who are able to look beyond the present and steer their company in new directions. Whether they're introducing new products and services or disrupting existing markets, innovative leaders look for ways to create better solutions and experiences for their customers.

Bob Caporale, president of consulting firm Sequent Learning Networks, explores the connections between the strategic and creative processes in his new book, Creative Strategy Generation: Using Passion and Creativity to Compose Business Strategies That Inspire Action and Growth. 1to1 Media caught up with Caporale to discuss the complexities of developing a strategic plan and the value of thinking creatively.

1to1 Media: What is a common misconception about creative thinkers?

Bob Caporale:
There's a misconception that there are creative and noncreative people. In my experience, that becomes a barrier, especially for people who don't consider themselves creative thinkers. One of the reasons that happens is I think we often associate creativity with the arts. If you're not in the arts field, then you're not creative.

But the basis of creativity is in creating something and you can create something in any number of disciplines. When you look at creativity as having the ability to bring an idea to life, then you see it in a different light and allow people to recognize the ability in themselves.

Can you offer an example of a creative strategy that's driven by data?

BC:I included a few examples in my book just to give readers something to start with.
But almost every strategy is based on a level of data. Some are more formal where you're collecting as much data as you can about a customer or area and then processing and analyzing it. Or you can have an informal approach where you're doing more observations to understand what makes people tick. Both are forms of data, but it's a misconception that some strategies are based on data and others aren't. I think it's a matter of whether you're collecting data formally or informally. And what's more important is what you do with that data. You have to take that input and process it and act on it.

What are some tips for promoting collaboration between the CMO and CIO?

When I see companies or departments not collaborating, it's usually because they're driven by different goals or don't know how their goals tie together. The goal or strategy needs to be? well-communicated so that people understand their role. One of the first things to do is make sure everyone is aligned to the same goal. That usually solves many issues because the purpose of a strategy is having a plan to achieve a goal. And so if everyone knows what the goal is and the plan to achieve it, that'll automatically lead to collaboration.

The other thing is by naming a CMO or CIO or similar type of function, there might be some preconceived notions that one is a creative group and the other is a more technical group. It comes back to my original statement that if we all see ourselves as creating something and having some level of creativity and level of responsibility for bringing it to reality, then that helps with collaboration and for people to work together in a more harmonious way.

What advice do you have for employers on hiring someone with a talent for thinking creatively?

I should clarify that not everybody produces creative output; I believe most have that ability but whether they're tapping into it or not is another question. That's the kind of thing an employer wants to know in the interview.

The employer wants to know how open are people to developing something from scratch. How open-minded are they? How well can they observe what customers want or don't want and process that? Those are the types of things I think about when I'm looking at someone's ability to adopt a creative process.

Is it necessary for everyone to be a creative thinker?

BC: Not everyone in a company needs to have that ability. At the end of the day, you can develop a creative strategy across multiple disciplines and have people that are much better at collecting data and crunching numbers and others that are better at processing it. It's not to say everyone has to be creative. It's just that I don't want to pigeonhole someone into an area unless that's where they want to be.

Also, a lot of people who see themselves as non-creative may assume that creative people aren't following any type of a process or structure. In many cases creativity comes from some level of a process as well. For example, I'm a musician and composer. When I write a song, it doesn't come out of thin air. There's a process behind music theory and putting a song together. I want to parallel that process in business to show that there's a process to creative thought and you can adopt it in many disciplines. Another way to put it is if someone thinks being a structured thinker is the opposite of creative, I would argue that's not always the case.