Corporate

February 17, 2021

The creative case for diversity beyond the Arts

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The Innovation team at Instinctif harness the best of the future to deliver market-leading ideas in the present. The team’s specialism spans digital strategy and marketing, data & analytics, and strategic brand. With the world and news agenda fast-changing around us, now’s the time to get agile in how we think and work.

This newsletter brings you the best of the week in the ‘new normal’, straight from the desk of the Innovation team.

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Last week, the University of the Arts London (UAL) and financial services executive search and talent advisory Sheffield Haworth hosted a live session exploring the value of creative and diverse thinking outside of the cultural sector.

The event set out creativity as a key business driver, with a panel of corporate leaders consisting of:

  • Caroline Connellan – CEO at investment management firm Brooks Macdonald
  • Shaili Poddar, Strategy & Operations Consulting, Deloitte
  • Ben Johnson, Managing Director & Global Head of Insurance, Sheffield Haworth
  • Richard Sant, Head of Careers & Employability, University of Arts London

It’s no secret that creativity often finds itself relegated to the ‘whimsical’ pile.

Something that’s separate from the ‘real’ business of setting and meeting goals, and making a profit.

This event turned that misconception on its head.

Here’s what we learnt:

Creativity is about problem-solving

There’s an over-association of creativity with visual skills; traditional ‘art’. But creativity is much bigger than that. It’s about problem-solving, innovation and process.

UAL uses a ‘Creative Attributes’ framework, composed of three elements:

  • The ability to make things happen; to be proactive in creating something new that wasn’t there before
  • The ability to be resilient in order to overcome obstacles
  • The ability to communicate ideas clearly

It’s easy to see how these three attributes feed into the qualities needed to succeed in a corporate environment: proactiveness, communication and resilience.

Diversity = divergent thinking

Building diverse teams is a non-negotiable. One of the (many) benefits of hearing a wide range of voices in your board rooms and your meetings is divergent thinking.

Diverging from a topic would commonly be seen as getting distracted, as going off-piste and away from the task at hand. But in order to come up with new and better ways of doing things, divergent thinking is about using the creative process to open up multiple possible avenues, rather than close them down.

Spreadsheets are creative

(And Powerpoints are creative, too). Shaili Poddar commented that in her role at Deloitte, she spends a lot of time on Excel and Powerpoint, developing analytical tools and models, wireframing and prototyping.

These tasks aren’t what we’d commonly consider to be creative bedrocks – but creativity is central here, for the following reasons:

  • It’s about building something new to solve a specific problem (referring to point one on the UAL ‘Creative Attributes’ framework)
  • It’s about storytelling, bringing your audience on the journey with you; keeping them engaged to use the tool/read your deck
  • It’s about empathy – a central tenant of creativity; to be successful in what you create, you have to understand the end user’s requirements, their situation and their perspective. And respond to it.

Creativity is part of our humanity

The World Economic Forum has predicted creativity, innovation and ideation will be key skills for the workforce of the future. Why? The panellists’ view was that, with the rise of AI and machine learning, creativity will be one of the last things that can’t be done by a computer. It’s part of our humanity; an asset that only we can access to this level, and a feature we should treasure.

Offices will be redesigned as places of purpose

There’s been a big focus on ‘growing back green’ – can we expect to increasingly hear about ‘growing back creative’?

The panellists were of the view that, post-pandemic, offices would see an overhaul in design and use. More collaborative spaces and areas for socialising were forecast; places to come together. Spaces in which colleagues feel safe to play with ideas, and in which they can build the relationships that will help them feel supported in exploring new concepts.

“Why am I going to the office?” will be asked a lot more. We’ll be going to the office with a specific purpose in mind, rather than mindlessly travelling in every day because it’s ‘the done thing’.

Creativity is far from childish

There’s a sense that, as you become more established in your career as a ‘professional’, that it’s time to put away childish things, including creativity.

CEO Caroline Connellan debunked that myth, commenting that, “as I’ve got more senior in my career, I’ve learnt I need to share more of my creativity, not less of it.”

And Sheffield Haworth’s Ben Johnson saw this reflected in the technology sector, referencing the “influx of creative people at a senior level” in the growing insurtech space. He viewed creativity as the ‘secret ingredient’ behind industry success, stating that, “Technology isn’t enough on its own. It’s what you’re going to do with it that makes it powerful.”

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A lot of people are talking about It’s a Sin – Channel 4’s new drama, which follows a group of friends living in London through the 1980s Aids crisis. It has been labelled All 4’s “most binged new series ever”, with the first episode becoming the streaming service’s most popular drama launch on record. The series has been praised across the board for its powerful storytelling and bringing LGBT+ history to a mainstream audience.

We wanted to shine a light on LGBT+ History Month which occurs every February. LGBT+ History Month is an informative and celebratory month that aims to educate out prejudice and make LGBT+ people visible in all their diversity.

Whether you are a member of a corporate LGBT+ network / social group, or just interested, here’s how you can get involved:

  • Take a look at the resources provided by LGBT+ History Month here.
  • Attend an online event here.
  • Watch It’s a Sin here.

Come to a member of the Innovation team for recommendations on podcasts to listen to, TV shows and documentaries to watch or great books to read on the topic.

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This week’s tip comes from the Innovation team collective:

Ah, social media and pile-ons. They go together like bread and butter. Like pencil and paper.
Like Weetabix and…baked beans?

That’s right, Weetabix has caused a storm in a breakfast bowl with its Tweet suggesting an ‘unorthodox’ breakfast pairing.

And the vociferous internet arbiters of taste were quick to voice their opinions, with some key industry players jumping on the bandwagon (brandwagon?).

For the cereal vigilantes among us, lay down your spoons – the police have been notified and they’ll be taking it from here.

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