Why Strategic Creativity is Your Team’s Secret Weapon

Text overlaying photo of chess pieces, 'Why Strategic Creativity is your team's secret weapon'

Let’s not beat around the bush. Strategic creativity is the Draw 4 of Uno cards. The corner sniper position in laser tag. The rocket-boosting Super Star in Mario Kart.

It’s the golden thread that bonds unstoppable teams together, and the pointed horn on a highly sought-after unicorn employee.

Have I got your attention now? Great! Honestly, we could go on about the power of strategic creativity for years, but for the sake of your workday, we will keep it concise. In fact, in under 2000 words, we are going to give you the 411 on:

What is Strategic Creativity?

Contrary to popular belief, creativity in the workplace doesn’t materialise in the form of outlandish gimmicks. Surprise! You actually don’t need to replace your office chairs with exercise balls or enforce dance parties at the commencement of meetings.

Let’s face it, it really has nothing to do with your outwards appearances. Strategic creativity is about how you create space for ideas to flourish and be executed in alignment with your business goals – a framework for performance and staff happiness.

For us, strategic creativity is…

The ability to think on your feet, seize opportunities and tackle mammoth problems in situations where knowledge and experience are not sufficient.

And a team that possesses this πŸ‘† will be unstoppable!

Have you ever played a role in hiring? You may have found yourself focussing on hard skills such as design or leadership when in reality creativity should top your priority list. Why you ask?

According to theΒ World Economic Forum, creativity was due to become the third-most-important skill for employees by 2020, behind complex problem-solving and critical thinking.

Another study by LinkedIn found that from a pool of 50,000 different professional skills people can master, creativity tops the list. With IBM confirming in a study of 1500 executives, that it is ranked above management, integrity, and vision in importance for tackling a changing future.

Need I say anymore?…

With that in mind, let’s look at four reasons why organisations should prioritise strategic creativity today, and every day!

Reason #1: Allows You To Make Better Decisions, Faster

Let’s throw it back to the 90s. You find yourself faced with a major life dilemma, and who else do you consult but your trusty magic 8-ball.

Dear magic 8-ball, if I invest heavily into email marketing will my company reap the rewards? *Shake shake* …….Most Likely.

Aghhhhhhhhh MOST LIKELY?! Wtf am I supposed to derive from that?! That’s not a decision.

Wait, so I shouldn’t rely on a magic 8-ball for major life decisions?!

Now while we hope you’re not making major life or business decisions based on a toy, we do know from experience with clients that decisions typically go one of two ways….

  1. Like our magic 8-ball example, a decision is made in a matter of seconds, the team gets 50% of the way through acting on it, realises it was a silly decision, and abandons the idea. The process repeats itself.
  2. A person cannot make a decision without first collating the evidence and burrowing into every possible situation where that decision goes horribly wrong, or right. By the time a decision has been made, the moment has passed and the resulting actions are redundant.

“Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” – Malcolm Gladwell

THIS is what strategic creativity will give your team πŸ‘†

As we said in the introduction to this blog, strategic creativity is creating space for ideas to flourish and be executed in alignment with your business goals.

Part of the parcel of this is the ability to be able to decipher, firstly when an idea is worth exploring, and if it is, how you can take that idea from a lonely post-it on a whiteboard to a full-fletched solution or campaign in the most customer-centric and time-efficient way possible.

With a clear vision, the ear of your leadership team and a culture that values trust, a strategically creative team is able to pause, reflect and make decisions in alignment with shared goals.

MI Academy helped me sell more dog food. They helped us make more money. But really, they allowed us to make better decisions, faster.

Steven Perisinotto from VetShop Group

How do we do it? Well, among our strategic creativity arsenal we have two key frameworks for making better decisions.

  1. The Creative Code – For when you’re stuck at a crossroads and need to innovate fast.
    Watch: The Creative Code BAM Talk at Retail Global 2019
  2. Design Thinking – For when you have identified the problem and need to de-risk a human-centric solution.
    Read: Design Thinking – Our Playbook for Marketing Innovation
Alita at Retail Global 2019

Reason #2: De-Risks Ideas and Innovations

Now, we’ve already thrown the word innovation in a couple of times, so before we go any further let’s get clear on something important!

They may be two peas in a pod, but innovation and strategic creativity are NOT the same concept.

We like to think of it like this

  • Strategic Creativity is the framework for the generation of novel and useful ideas, often by connecting knowledge in new ways and aligning it to business objectives – it is about performance and happiness.
  • Innovation is the realisation of those ideas (as products, services, practices, etc.) and their implementation to create value – it’s the byproduct of strategic creativity.

Think of them like a two-person relay that continually runs in circles around a track. They feed into each other, and lap by lap evolving businesses, whole industries, one could argue, the world!

But what happens when strategic creativity runs a PB, and passes the baton to an over-eager innovation, only for innovation to drop it and be disqualified? That’s where it all falls apart and we need to go back to the start line.

Without strong foundations for strategic creativity, innovation becomes risky, unpredictable and potentially, extremely costly.

That’s why, when a company comes to us wanting to become a market-leading innovator, we focus on strategic creativity first.

  1. What are your vision, mission and values?
  2. How do your goals or objectives align with this?
  3. Does your team have the rituals and cadences to support these goals and objectives?
  4. Does your team have the ear of the business leader and a culture of trust to work autonomously?

With these foundations, a team is in an optimal position to start innovating. They understand WHY they are doing something (vision and goal alignment) and HOW they will achieve it (rituals, cadences and autonomy). Only then can they put their attention to the WHAT (innovation).

Infographic of a pyramid showing how vision, mission, values and goals alignment works

By the way, when we talk about innovation from strategic creativity, we’re not talking about making the next Uber or AirBnb, or maybe we are…

Mostly we’re talking about incremental innovation, the kind that drives consistent performance, results and happy teams who know they are adding value to the organisation.

Reason #3: Makes For a More Resilient and Agile Organisation

“The most dangerous phrase in our language is “we’ve always done it this way.”

Rear Admiral George Hooper

Let me tell you the cautionary tale of the once largest smartphone company in the world, BlackBerry.

In its heyday, BlackBerry controlled 43% of the smartphone market in the US and 20% globally. They were the chosen smartphone brand of every Von Dutch wearing early 2000’s cool kid and even had celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Barack Obama addictively tapping away on their “CrackBerrys”.

Their hold on the market was undeniable. Like, Apple who? Never heard of them…

Gif of someone texting on their Blackberry

Enter Steve Jobs with a seemingly novel idea – a phone without a keypad.

Cut to the chase, the company underestimated how fast the market was moving and stuck to a mindset of ‘this is how we’ve always done it’, refusing to let go of their famous keyboard. All the while Apple was dropping new iPhones at a rate only matched by Fast and Furious sequels. I think we all know how this ends…

Fast forward a couple of decades and in January 2022, BlackBerry finally pulled the plug on its operating systems. All over red rover.

Did BlackBerry have a great product? Without a doubt! Was that product going to stay great forever? No.

You see, disruption is always just around the corner. Maybe it’s a new trend fuelled by TikTok-teens, a groundbreaking technology innovation, or I don’t know, a once in a lifetime pandemic!!

If your team only has the mindset and strategies to work within a stable and predictable environment, they are going to get a rude shock when disruption rocks up to the party with a plate of hot competition.

Also, in this scenario, your team aren’t thriving, they aren’t passionate, they are cogs in a wheel. Going about through the motions every day for a paycheck.

A strategically creative team is like a caffeine-charged netballer, ready to pivot, dodge and shoot the goal at any moment.

They welcome disruption with open arms because unknown to disruption, they’ve got sleeves packed with party tricks – the process and frameworks to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Take a look at your team. If you were to walk into next Monday’s meeting with a completely reimagined, status-quo breaking strategy would they…

A) Panic, add it to the pile of dusty half baked ideas, desperately clasp onto old ways of working and quickly burnout?

B) Or, momentarily panic (c’mon, we are only human!) before quickly shifting into excitement, employing the strategies and mindset for strategic creativity to forge a path forward?

We are not saying disruption will be easy to navigate (it rarely is!), we are just saying that with the sight of the shoreline and a trusty ship crew, you will make it through rough waters.

And hopefully, if you’re innovating incrementally, disruption shouldn’t creep on you. Remember those 1% performance gains add up over time. Ideally, you are the disruptor!

Reason #4: Increases Autonomy and Ownership with Cross-Functional Teams

Fast decisions, frameworks for innovation and sleeves full of strategies that help you get better every damn time….this is what dreams are made of.

But guess what, even if we tried, we couldn’t bundle that up and sell it to you with a big fat ‘Strategic Creativity’ bow on it. There would always be one element missing…..your team.

You see, until robots become sentient beings, and I can be off sipping mojitos rather, than writing this blog, strategic creativity will always be driven by your people. So of course, we had to save the best reason for last: your team!

Hey Sophia, are you ok to write my blogs?

I’m sure you’ve heard it, this common misconception that a “creative” team is one that is given free rein over their workweek? This isn’t necessarily correct… Without a doubt, flexibility plays a role, but embedding dedicated processes are actually the key to achieving team autonomy.

Want to nurture strategic creativity? You can focus on getting your team well-practised in rituals and processes like…

And the list goes on!

Think of these as your strategic creativity playbook! And so long as your team shares a common understanding of how they work and when they should deploy them, they can work autonomously ever after.

But why is team autonomy the ultimate utopia, you ask?

Well, because autonomous working leads to better results, improved job satisfaction and better employee engagement. Furthermore, stronger employee engagement is a doorway to greater retention, greater loyalty and easier talent attraction.

But what it all really boils to is happier, more high-performing teams. And it doesn’t get much better than that!

How to Foster a Culture of Strategic Creativity in Your Team

Whether you are a business owner, CEO or manager, we really hope that this blog has given strategic creativity in prime position in your thoughts.

And no, you don’t need to wait until you’re a multi-national with thousands of employees. Strategic creativity can (and should!) start small and grow with your team and organisation.

Start with your vision

Without a vision to align to, strategic creativity will be like a bull in a china shop. Start with where you want to be in 5 years, and then work that back to 3 years, 1 year, and finally, your 90-day goals.

Understand your rituals, stress-test and refine them

Rock-solid habits drive successful teams. However, they are not built overnight. It’s important to incrementally implement new habits and rituals like those mentioned in Reason #4 so that your team has an opportunity to understand why they are doing something and how they can customise it to fit their needs.

Focus on the most prominent pain points first and there roll it out from there. Over time, you will work yourself into a position where these routines and habits are business as usual.

Create a culture of trust

Making any change to your ways of working requires patience and trust. In order for this to stick, your teams need to feel supported and trusted throughout the process. Create space for mistakes and a culture that embraces failure and continuous learning!

MI Academy’s Solutions for Strategic Creativity

If you’ve made it this far, I’m sure you can understand the sheer passion we have for empowering teams to embrace strategic creativity. We’ve seen the results first-hand – accelerated innovation, happier teams and insane team performance.

If you are interested in harnessing this secret weapon in your own team or organisation, we have a number of options for growing and established teams. Want us to break them down? Book in a 30-minute Exploration to receive a customised training roadmap.

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Hold a fully-customised internal hackathon to make epic connections for impactful solutions. 

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