Before the dot-com boom, most business executives associated the word “creativity” with high-gloss ad campaigns and nothing more. The world’s most creative companies were the ones that paid agencies to make consumers laugh, cry, and buy.

Today, with technology on the rise and TV commercials on the decline, the word “creativity” has evolved into a completely different (and much larger) beast. It’s no longer something CMOs should outsource to an external entity; it’s now a vital attribute every C-suite leader must make a cultural priority.

Why? Because creativity is key to innovation, and it’s a driver of differentiation. Ultimately, it’s what makes or breaks modern-day brands.

Create Your Dominance

A creative culture values ideas over profit margins. It focuses on solving big problems today and worries about monetizing the solutions tomorrow.

Elon Musk may be the patron saint of creative cultures. Tesla offers a beautiful vehicle that addresses global warming and rising gas prices, but very few people can afford it. Sales have been slow, but the company has still become a household name, and as consumers continue to buy into the electric car revolution, production costs will drop and make the product much more accessible.

If you want to stand any chance of becoming the Tesla of your vertical, you need to build an in-house creative presence. Today, all sorts of brands — from the denim dealers at Levi to the credit kings at Capital One – are transforming their corporate cultures by investing in high-end creative talent and forming innovation teams.

My company was launched in 2012. Back then, most of our members were advertising agencies searching for freelance help; only 20 percent of our users were brands looking for in-house talent. Today, however, that script is flipped. Sixty percent of our current users are brands that realize the importance of fostering an internal creative culture.

Regardless of your size, shape, or industry, here are a few things you can do today to begin sculpting your creative culture:

1. Always Be Searching For New Problems To Solve

To state the obvious, the world has changed quite a bit over the past 30 years. Even compared to five years ago, consumer expectations have evolved in many fascinating and disruptive ways.

A successful creative culture is one that welcomes these changes with open arms and responds accordingly. It doesn’t matter if a company has been around for decades, selling a product that predates the internet; it stays at the forefront by swiftly finding new problems to solve.

A case in point is Domino’s Pizza. Up until 2008, Domino’s was just another pizza chain selling greasy pies to the masses. However, everything changed once the company embraced modern technology and revolutionized what was an age-old pizza purchasing process. The brand created “Pizza Tracker,” an interactive online ordering experience in which customers could design their own pizzas and then track their every move through the production line — from dough-tossing to delivery. Even though the pizza still tasted the same, consumers ate up Domino’s innovative idea. Since introducing Pizza Tracker, the company’s stock has risen 5,000 percent, and it continues to innovate in the tech realm.

Brilliant ideas like Pizza Tracker will emerge only when a company’s entire leadership team is willing to pivot from age-old tactics and try out new ideas. Trailblazing can be nerve-racking, especially when you consider the time, money, and resources you’ll need to devote to the cause. However, if you solve the right problem, your short-term costs will reap huge long-term rewards.

2. Give Creativity A Seat At The Table

You can’t just plant a batch of creative professionals into your company and expect things to magically work out. Every creative culture will need a leader ; that’s why we are seeing more and more companies hire chief creative officers.

You don’t need to hire a well-known entertainment mogul like Nick Cannon to lead your creative team – that didn’t work out so well for RadioShack. Instead, you need someone with a proven track record in the business world. This person should be able to hold his or her own in both the boardroom and the storyboard room. The rest of the C-suite must see him as a viable business mind who is here to help – not change – his departments.

With that established trust, respect, and legitimacy, the CCO’s influence will trickle throughout the greater ecosystem of your company, impacting everything from your sales process to your product design.

3. Rethink Your Staffing Practices

Today’s creatives aren’t just arts-and-crafts specialists who want to make your marketing materials look pretty; they’re big-picture thinkers and executors who want to drive millions of dollars to your bottom line.

Keep that in mind when navigating the creative talent marketplace. Top-tier candidates will be eager to partner with your brand if they know you are on the verge of solving a big problem and becoming a major disruptor. They are driven by innovation; they aren’t motivated by arts and crafts projects.

Ideally, you will want to assemble a combination of freelance and full-time creative professionals who possess a wide range of skills. But even if you can’t afford to bring on any full-time creative professionals (other than your CCO), it is definitely worth hiring high-level creative consultants on a freelance basis. They can come in for a few days, weeks, or months; assess your business; and provide ideas and guidance that will tangibly change your company for the better. Even if these groundbreaking ideas cost you $20,000, it is money well spent.

 

In business, cash will always be king. But today, creativity is what builds the kingdom. It is the power behind a company’s future profits – and it is something that every business in every industry must make a central part of their culture.