creative leadership

As we head into the new year and a volatile business environment, businesses continue to face the challenges of a largely remote workforce, evolving digital business requirements and elevated customer expectations.

Entrepreneurs and business leaders need to be quick to join the dots, make new connections and find innovative solutions to problems. Opportunities abound for those who are ready to embrace a creativity-led leadership to steer their teams through these uncertain times.

To challenge the status quo and inspire your team, here are some insights and practical tips.

Culture influences creativity

Organisational culture is crucial to an innovative company, yet it can often seem like an elusive and intangible concept. Based on the results of the Adobe Creativity Quotient (CQ), only 29 per cent of APAC leaders have succeeded in creating a culture that embraces creativity.

Those who don’t are missing out on the opportunity to create value for their business and nurture employees to do their best work.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses that had embraced change and had the agility to launch new business models were better able to thrive in the new operating environment.

Those were the businesses whose leaders were competent in change management and were able to effectively guide their teams through a period of intense transformation.

As businesses increasingly embrace hybrid work environments, they need to find new ways to support a culture that develops employee creativity. Aim to recreate or simulate the aspects of the company culture that require in-person engagement, such as water cooler conversations and informal spaces for bonding, as these are familiar environments for collaboration that spark creativity.

Also Read: How to use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to drive resilient leadership in 2021

Data centricity only matters if you have the right data

Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders understand that customer centricity hinges on data. However, only 36 per cent of leaders effectively use data at the start of every creative process and one in five use data retrospectively, to post-rationalise creative approaches.

One of Adobe’s customers in India, Tata CLiQ, brought up the ‘problem of plenty’ that organisations face when it comes to data.

Because businesses are collecting so much data from all their customer touchpoints and interactions, they are often overwhelmed by the amount of information available and hindered from making important decisions fast.

With the wealth of tools available to capture granular data, the priority must now shift to collecting and dissecting the right data. The use of data needs to be strategic, meaningful, and structured, right from the start.

It is also worth marking data collected ‘before’ and ‘after’ COVID-19, with insights drawn from it contextualised by how the pandemic has changed customer behaviour.

Blurring the lines between roles

The pandemic has changed what constitutes good customer experience (CX), and expectations will only continue on an upward trajectory.

As organisations move towards more agile customer experience management (CXM), different roles and teams within the organisation – including marketing, technology, and customer service– need to integrate for deeper collaboration.

Convenience is the main tent pole of CX today, and the delivery of that requires the collective intelligence within an organisation to understand the human experience as well as the emotional aspect throughout the customer journey. It is also what sets one startup apart from another in a crowded marketplace.

Empathy fuels creativity

According to Adobe CQ, only 25 per cent of APAC business leaders were driving the skills needed to navigate transformation and change. While technology can augment and enhance this, it cannot replace creativity and uniquely human abilities, such as empathy.

Empathy is increasingly vital in everything a business does – from understanding buying journeys to managing internal team processes, to analysing data insights. Data combined with empathy and creativity, equip a brand to deliver exceptional CX.

To innovate and drive business transformation in 2021, lean into fostering entrepreneurial skills that can be applied across business functions and roles. Technological skills, while important, will become less mission-critical as empathy, critical thinking, and the ability to problem-solve creatively, take precedence in the post-COVID-19 environment.

Also Read: 7 things to consider when distributing leadership roles among founders

Understand how technology augments human skills

While 2020 brought about a massive digital shift, offline channels remain an important platform to connect more intimately with customers. Companies that are able to understand the power of integrated CXM and apply that throughout the entire customer journey, will stand out.

Technology will continue to advance, enabling businesses to reimagine their operations. However, people also need the right skills to understand how to get the most out of that technology.

Leaders need to think not just about how to teach people technology skills, but also how to provide adequate time and resources to help employees apply that technology meaningfully and creatively across the business.

We’ve emerged from a year unlike any other and the year ahead remains uncertain. Those who lead with creativity will be well placed to thrive in the new normal.

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