Creativity: Officially a Boon to Business

adobe creativity study
Photo: Kate Ter Har via Flickr

Creative pioneer Adobe recently released a new study confirming, with hard data, what most of us already knew: That encouraging continued education, media literacy, and the overall creative pursuits of workers is good business.

Called the Creative Dividend Survey, the partnership with Forrester Consulting was designed to quantify what a lot of people in the creative pursuits had theorized.

“The study surveyed senior managers from more than 300 large global companies across a diverse set of industries to understand how creativity impacts business results. Decision-makers from large enterprises in the US, UK, France, Australia/ New Zealand, Korea, Japan, and Germany who influence creative software purchases were interviewed,” explained Adobe in the press release.

Jim Guerard, vice president of Adobe’s Digital Media Enterprise Solutions, says he knew in his gut that creativity among employees was a valuable asset — but he wanted hard data to back it up.

“I spend about 2/3 of my time traveling and meeting different Adobe customers, and there’s a different buzz — a different feeling — in creative businesses. But for this study, we wanted to go beyond the intuitive believe and really do some quantitative research.”

When asked if the findings backed up his suppositions?

“Yes. Absolutely,” says Jim. Not only do creative workplaces feel more active and invigorated, they actually do better business; that’s why Adobe coined the term “the creative dividend.”

“Creativity really is an ongoing annuity,” Jim explains. In the study, Adobe and Forrester found that:

— Companies with creative employees are market leaders. “More creative companies enjoy greater market share and competitive leadership,” writes Adobe. “Creative companies are more likely to report a commanding market leadership position with a higher market share than competitors. Of those reporting market share leadership, creative companies outnumber their less creative counterparts by a factor of 1.5.”

— Creativity yields revenue. “Companies that foster creativity achieve exceptional revenue growth than peers. 58%  of survey respondents that said their firms’ foster creativity had 2013 revenues exceeding their 2012 revenues by 10% or more. In contrast, only 20% of less creative companies performed similarly.”

— Creativity gets noticed.  “69% of creative firms…reported winning awards and national recognition for being a ‘best place to work,'” Adobe found. Those awards, which may seem frivolous, have more hiring power, and are able to pull qualified candidates. ‘Best workplace’ awards also tend to be given to employers with happy workers, and, studies have shown, happy workers are more productive, effective, and efficient.

And yet, the employers of the world still don’t place an emphasis on creativity — at least, not widely. Adobe found that 61% of companies do not see their companies as creative, and that 10%  “felt their practices were, in fact, the opposite of what creative companies do.”

But that’s changing.

“For years, business leaders have focused on things like employee productivity, process efficiency and workforce planning as the key success drivers for their companies. But over the past few years, the mindset has shifted. Leading companies recognize the importance of another key success driver – the need to infuse creativity into all aspects of the business environment – from strategy and culture, to innovation and customer engagement,” says David Wadhwani, senior vice president, Digital Media at Adobe.

Jim agrees.

“Increasingly, top companies that are coming into colleges and universities to recruit are demanding a baseline literacy in digital and creative tools. We’re seeing a shift in both the culture and the values,” Jim says. Companies are beginning to offer stipends for continuing educationtravel, and exploration. Adobe, says Jim, has implemented a program called KickBox that encourages employees to pitch ideas and come up with creative solutions to problems.

“It doesn’t mean you have to be an expert, but exposure and basic knowledge build other essential skills. Greater flexibility, a higher tolerance for ambiguity, courage to fail — even in jobs like sales, being exposed to creative tools and encouraged to explore can establish those skills.”

For employees, this is great news — so long as they embrace it. Taking an online class, exploring a new hobby, or even just conceptualizing a better way to do things at work can all make an employee more desirable, as well as more confident.

Because creativity doesn’t just mean drawing and painting; in the era of modern communication and the freelance/gig economy, creativity in the workplace means coming up with innovated ways to solve old problems. A working knowledge of various social media sites, tools like Photoshop or Lightroom, and the ability to build websites, launch online marketing attempts, or even just find new clients through savvy web searches, all count as workplace creativity.

Creativity has been cited more than once as a potential solution for unemployment and the global economic crisis (and CreativeLive’s CEO has called creativity “the new literacy”), but Adobe’s data shifts the focus from the benefit to employees to the benefits of business.

“Creativity is no longer a nice-to-have,” says Jim, “it’s a way to become a market leader.”


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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.