Today I spent a great day at the Emerging Issues Forum, where I’m proud to say my home state of North Carolina attracted some of the top business minds in the world (the Twitter stream is going crazy here). This morning featured two Dark Matter Matters all stars, Roger Martin and Tom Kelley (who I have written about previously here and here), but there was also an incredible lunch session where Charlie Rose interviewed husband and wife creative geniuses Nnenna Freelon (the 5-time Grammy nominated jazz vocalist) and Philip Freelon (architect extraordinaire), and plenty of other enlightening stuff.
The theme of the conference is Creativity, Inc., and from what I can tell from many of the attendee and host comments, the theme of this year’s event is very different than years past. But the undercurrent of many of the comments from this morning seemed to take a clear point of view on this theme.
My interpretation? For years the business world has been waging a war against creativity… and creativity is beginning to fight back.
It’s about damn time.
Roger Martin is one of the most eloquent speakers in the world on the need for change in business. Some key points from his talk today:
Martin talked about two types of industries– clustered industries (where much of the industry is in one part of the world, Silicon Valley for high tech being one good example) and distributed industries (where the industry is dispersed all over, hair salons and pizza places being two examples).
Martin’s research shows that clustered industries have a higher percentage of the creative class of workers. The average salary for a creative worker in a clustered industry? About $70,000 per year. But for a creative worker in a dispersed industry? Only about $56,500 a year. Pretty big difference.
So what does it mean? According to Martin, income disparities will continue to grow unless we can figure out what to do with routine jobs in dispersed industries.
He calls this one of the greatest policy challenges of the 21st century: How can we increase the percentage of creativity we use in all jobs? How can we make use of the whole human being in work environments?
I love this thought of us figuring out how to use the whole human being– how many jobs do we see that leave tons of creative potential on the table, at the expense of not only innovation, but also employee happiness? Too many, in my experience. And at all levels in business, from executive on down.
Martin went on to show data comparing the difference in unemployment figures for creative vs. non-creative jobs. The punch line? Even in today’s tough economic environment, there are significantly lower rates of unemployment in creativity-oriented jobs across the board. A good sign for the value of the creative worker.
He attacked our ongoing cultural focus on analytical thinking at the expense of creativity, saying emphatically that no new idea or invention ever came from analytical thinking. Which lead nicely into Tom Kelley’s talk, later in the morning.
Kelley gave even more insight into creativity and especially his and IDEO’s brand of design thinking. My favorite line from Kelley’s talk? The only defense against hungry competitors is to continue to outpace their rate of innovation. Meaning, you must create if you want to have a successful business over the long term.
It kind of makes you wonder why we spend some much time in business talking all about analytics, reliability, and proof if most of the growth opportunities stem from creativity. We spend too little time learning how people create. Possibilities. Passion. Hope.
As Nnenna Freelon got up at the end of lunch and sang a beautiful jazz standard to a group of us who probably don’t usually spend our business meetings that way, I started thinking to myself…
This is why I joined New Kind.
I think maybe we can help.