Embracing creativity in times of change


Owen Daly-Jones

SVP Head of Insight & Design at Sutherland Labs

When experiencing crisis and change - take a global pandemic for example - businesses and brands often need help to adapt and keep pace. Faced with uncertainty, adopting a creative mindset can help brands open new conversations and seize pivotal opportunities.

When we talk about creativity in business, we really mean embracing a divergent way of thinking that inspires, provokes, and helps brands see opportunities in challenges. A quick glance around our homes will reveal brands that thrive through creativity, from the Alexa sat on the kitchen side to the Macbook I’m typing on right now.

Let’s take an example. The demise of Blockbuster is a well-known cautionary tale from business folklore and for good reason. Back when the concept of streaming was first being touted and the entertainment industry was ripe for reinvention, Blockbuster famously turned down a merger with the then up and coming mail order DVD service Netflix. Think about that: for a brief pivotal moment Blockbuster could have chosen to embrace a creative opportunity to reimagine the entertainment retail experience for a future generation of customers.

But instead, Blockbuster declined - believing that their beholden customers would continue to choose an existing bricks and mortar model. They didn’t. And in 2010 Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy, while Netflix... well... Netflix, only went on to reinvent the way we consume entertainment altogether. As one of the highest ranked innovators in today's world - Netflix has gone from mail order service to streaming giant to production company in the space of 20 years, applying creativity and innovation to dominate the market it set out to disrupt.

Embracing creativity doesn’t mean copying Apple (or Netflix for that matter). Nor does it mean acting on unchecked whims of inspiration. Responding with creativity may involve challenging the status quo as Tesla did in creating a direct to consumer model for car sales, or harnessing personalization and data to produce a hugely popular fan experience like Spotify’s Wrapped, or, it could be inventing ways to reach new audiences like Gucci’s foray into the virtual world of gaming.

But for me, there is one constant theme we see when creativity wins. The sweet spot for effective creativity occurs when organization immerse themselves in the human needs and behaviors of their audiences. Because the amazing thing about human behavior is that it’s constantly changing too. It is endlessly fascinating, unpredictable and unexpected. And, in unprecedented times, it may well be the fuel that brands need to ignite creativity and tackle their most complex challenges.