Business + creativity


There are some people who will have you believe that the world of 'business' is not your place.

There are some people who will hold a hand up, pushing you further away, holding you back when it comes to anything 'business'.

There are even clients who look at you and see someone who is proficient with a mouse and the Adobe Creative Suite; any mention of 'business things' is met with a defensive tilt of the head. They will position you as a commodity, not because you are a commodity, but because it makes them feel better.

It makes them 'look' better.

There are others who will hide things from you — the strategic things — like they are something akin to sorcery or a kind of dark art that only they can wield.

Whilst others, the lone wolves, will hide themselves in a room doing 'business things' whilst you toil away at your desk, behind your big monitor and your 'creative things'.

In Australia alone (where I live and work), the creative industry is responsible for 3% of this country's GDP — an industry worth more than AUD$90 billion — $32billion of that are export dollars). In this country there are over 300,000 people who have been classed as working in the creative industries.

Now... if we can contribute so much to our own economies, you'd think we'd know a thing or two about business.

It would be easy to assume that we're actually valid contributors to the 'business' conversation.


Where did it all go wrong?


As more and more graduates knock on my door each year, I am perplexed at the lack of a simple understanding of how the business of creativity works. I look to our education system and ask; why?

As more and more graduates launch into their careers and slowly come to the sad realisation that the story they were sold of potential employers waiting to hire them after their graduation was actually just a furfy to get them to enrol — they pivot and choose to run small, low-revenue-earning businesses.

The industry of creativity goes on to mature into an industry that is low in business knowledge and high on aspiration — some might say bewilderment.

Of course, I generalise.

But with a level of self awareness and understanding that we also have a small part to play in this problem, we have to admit that the fault is our own.

We are in the business of helping businesses build brands, products and initiatives (campaigns) to raise money, create influence, educate and in some, if not most cases, make more money for shareholders. 

Yet, we as an industry fail to help ourselves in the same way.

We are stuck in a reality where the majority of our industry 'makes it up as they go' and rarely considers anything 'business' having a place with anything 'creative'.

The truth is that we are best placed to have the 'business' conversation. We are best placed to sit at a boardroom table and lend our ability to think laterally to unravel and solve social, business and organisational problems.

Our ability to 'design think' is unique to the Creative Class. Our ability to boil down towards simplicity is unique to our ability to move from left brain to right brain.

We have both the potential and experience across industries to build powerful leadership positions for ourselves as individuals, our businesses and for our industry as a whole.

But, why then are perceptions at such a low?

Why then, is the production line inside our education system pushing out graduates with the look of 'what do you mean I have to think about business?' in their eyes?

Why then, are our awards shows so internally focussed and rarely, if ever applauded by our clients?

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, famously said:

"Your brand is what they think of you when you leave the room."

So if they think that we don't have a place in business then this is our reality. This is our brand; and more so, if we think this of ourselves, we're doomed.

If perception is indeed reality, then we have to face up to reality and do something about it.