It’s your business: Get the most out of the creative economy

Joe Smith

Special to The Record

“If you keep colouring within the boxes and writing on the lines, you may never be able to do something remarkable. Break your spirit free to explore.” Bernard Kelvin Clive


Many columns ago I wrote about the concept of thinking like an artist to develop more creativity in your business strategies. This was based on the growing interest in what was being labeled the Creative Economy.

John Howkins, a British author whose career spans many industries, proposed that the role of individual creativity is the primary source of this new economy. He defined a creative product as an economic good, service or experience resulting from creativity and with the characteristics of being personal, novel and meaningful.

To further emphasize the importance of creativity in all aspects of life the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) declared ‘Creativity and innovation are now driving the economy, reshaping entire industries and stimulating inclusive growth.’ There are at this time 34 nations that are members of the OECD, Canada being one of the founding countries.

With the focus on this newly described economy as being the engine driving business opportunities, it is essential to move your business and your method of doing things into this new age.

Thinking like an artist is not some wild-eyed undisciplined endeavour. The serious artist, whether visual or performing, goes through an intense process of seeing, thinking, doing and redoing in order to come up with a finished product.

Along the way they think about the way colors, sounds or movements work with each other. They think about design, composition, techniques and the integration of ideas so that they will convey a story that will get a reaction.

What happens in business is not much different than the process a serious artist must undertake. You need to know who you are, do research that will point you in the right direction, know what you want to say, who you want to say it to, be willing to experiment and if necessary adapt to a changing environment.

The question of course is … can this creativity be learned? The simple answer is yes.

Studies have shown that there are five crucial behaviors that can improve your ability to develop creativity.

• Association: For example, you can learn from companies outside your industry. What companies do you admire and what are they doing that you can adopt or adapt to make you successful.

• Observing: Look at your customers, suppliers, and competitors to see what they are doing in order to identify new ways of doing things

• Question: For every challenge, there can be many solutions. Keep asking if you are doing the one that best works for you.

• Experiment: Try something new. As Steve Jobs said, innovation is saying no to a thousand things.

• Network: Associate with people who may have different ideas or perspectives … employees, friends, business associates.

If you can focus on these five behaviours you will be well on your way to improving your creative thinking process. To paraphrase something that Einstein said, “You can’t solve your problems with the same thinking that was used to create them.”

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at

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