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Three quarters of the companies on the S&P 500 list weren’t there in the 1980s

Three quarters of the companies on the S&P 500 list weren’t there in the 1980s

Why your firm should embrace change.

This means, three quarters of companies which were listed in that particular register in 1980 have been displaced by more recent arrivals. There is no escaping the fact that companies are founded, grow and die off at an ever increasing pace – the process of creative destruction is getting faster. Within a decade or decade and a half most of the companies doing business right now – big, small, and medium – will have ceased to exist. That is change.

How to not just face the gods of creative destruction but make them your allies? How to swim with the currents of change and not drown? How to build an organisational culture which, by virtue of its essential nature, draws the right kinds of recruits and fosters the right kind of mindset in people? Creative professionals hold the key to some of those questions.

This is not a new idea. Creativity has been growing in importance relative to other areas of expertise for some time. IBM’s well-known study of over a thousand of the World’s CEOs placed creativity among the top qualities they value and look for in their people. So should you be hiring only people who exhibit a strong creative streak? Maybe, but that will soon become expensive and impractical. Should you be raiding the ranks of creative professionals and poaching them for your organisation? That would be missing the point, somewhat. There are not enough creative professionals in the World to fill all available positions, and neither should they. Their skills, minds and experience are more valuable than to be confined to one position. I would therefore suggest that companies must be willing to engage creatives as not just designers and writers and image makers but as consultants who come in and teach their people how to be more, well, like them. I realise that this is not going to be accepted as a reasonable proposition by many. But I am willing to crystal ball gaze here a little, and suggest that those that do not enrich the ranks of their staff with the leavening of high doses of creativity will find it increasingly more difficult to establish, and then hold on to, any innovation processes and any competitive advantage. This will be true for employer branding as much as, for example, customer communications. The entire value chain is now under attack by nimble operators who understand the strategic value of imagination and the creativity that enables it. Before too long, therefore, companies that do not shift into a higher creative gear will be facing the decision to pivot, downsize or close. Other companies which invest in fostering a creative mindset faster, and go further with the process, will have eaten their market share. And the tragic thing is, other than not having gone down the path of innovation quickly enough, the incumbents will not have done anything wrong. Their production processes will have been optimised to a pleasant purr. Their sales organisation will have been working like a well-oiled machine. Their bottomline will have been looking good, often right up to the last moment. Engaging creative professionals to sprinkle their magic dust through the organisation early enough ought to, at the very least, give you more time to set up effective innovation processes in your company.

Working with creative professionals as guides and mentors in the process of building a culture of innovation is, of course, something I would advocate, being a creative professional. But I have seen positive results enough times to know that such cross-industry collaboration is one of the most impactful additions to a modern executive’s management toolkit.

Author, speaker and consultant on strategic creativity, innovation & communication, working with leading corporations (Volkswagen, Google, HP, Danfoss, RBS) as well as knee-deep in Europe’s and Australia's startup community. Good at seeing the big picture and spotting connections between people and concepts. Startup founder (web, mobile, blockchain) and mentor for Founder Institute and PwC StartupCollider. Curator for TEDxWarsaw and contributor to technology and media events as speaker, programme director and/or moderator.