We’re living through a period of extraordinary challenges and opportunities in the way we work. From the shift to hybrid work becoming more common to huge advances in technology, not to mention an unpredictable economic environment, learning to adapt and thrive is key. Creativity in leadership and your overall approach to management is one of the most effective ways to navigate changing times and grow your business, starting with original and inspiring ideas, innovations and solutions. Indeed, research from McKinsey found creative companies are more innovative and achieve better financial performance. We spoke to three leaders about why creativity at work is important, and the positive effects outside-the-box thinking has had on their business growth and success.
Injecting Creativity into a Traditional Industry
Melbourne-based Hive Legal is a commercial law firm founded in 2014 that does things a little differently, explains executive director and experience designer Melissa Lyon. Traditional law firms can be regimented, structured and hierarchical, with clients billed by the hour. But at Hive Legal, they’ve adopted an innovative and creative business model that works for the team and their clients.
Focus on Creativity at Work at Every Level
“When the founders of Hive looked at creating a business model, they started from scratch and created a model that works for us, embedding different values, approaches and the ways we do things. Since way before the pandemic, we have been working flexibly in a hybrid way. Our office has also been paperless since 2014.
Creativity is one of our values and has been central to things from the start. We were one of the first law firms, I think, to really embrace the idea of designed thinking within the firm. So [it’s] designed thinking in terms of being human-centred, experimenting with the way we were doing things, taking a very empathetic approach and being creative in the way that we were doing things – giving things a try that were quite different.
For instance, we don’t have billable hours as we base our pricing on the value that our clients receive, rather than the time we spend doing things, which isn’t the same as a traditional law firm.
The Benefits of Creativity Require the Entire Team
Our entire team – there are nearly 40 of us now – has ongoing input into the strategy of the firm and what we're going to do next. Each year, we have a strategy day where we purposefully design the future of Hive. We use creative strategies like asking people to envision Hive in 10 years’ time. This approach frees our minds from the way that we're doing things now and helps us think about what the future could look like.
We’ve found over the years that when you give people permission and freedom to have fun and be inspired by what’s happening in different industries, rather than just being focused on the law, ideas and creativity flow much more freely.”
Melissa’s creativity tip: “Have times where you take people out of the day-to-day to workshop and design creative solutions to problems or innovative ways of doing things. [It can help you] take advantage of the creativity that you already have within your team that you might not have necessarily known is there.”
Growing Your Business With Innovation and Divergent Thinking
Sinead Connolly, CEO and founder at Lotus People, has been running the office support and HR recruitment agency for eight years. Owing to its creative approach to recruitment, the agency has tripled in size since early 2021, with more than 20 staff members across its Sydney and Brisbane offices.
Empower Everyone to Contribute
“To manage growth, we’ve implemented committees for diversity and inclusion, performance and continuous improvement, corporate social responsibility, and social get-togethers. Each of these committees pulls everyone into a room to talk about what’s working, what’s not and brainstorm ideas. In my mind, creativity in leadership is about giving people space to come to the table and feel empowered.
We've seen huge results from this approach. Some of it is around clarity and communication of policies. Some of it is simple changes that impact the day-to-day, like occasionally moving our regular morning meeting to the afternoon to encourage team bonding, which can be impacted by hybrid working.
Use Technology to Innovate and Inspire Business Growth
Investing in automation software is helping to improve our marketing. It’s not necessarily an innovative approach in marketing, but it’s innovative and inventive in our sector. The software produces a ‘hot leads’ list that shows us how, say, 250 potential clients have engaged with us: perhaps they’ve downloaded reports, clicked a particular link or revisited the website. Having this data and being creative in how we use it to go out to market [by the sales team being able to contact people in a more targeted way] results in an immediate lift for our sales team.”
Sinead’s creativity tip: “Give your team time and space to be creative. We tend to fill our diaries and schedule our days, which can get in the way of creativity. [American business magnate] Warren Buffett always said he never had anything in his diary other than an appointment for a haircut!”
Using Tech Skills and Remote Work to Drive Growth
Oliver Garside is co-founder and director at Melbourne-based Rounded, a cloud-based invoicing and tax tool built specifically for Australian freelancers and sole traders to run more efficient businesses, be in better control of their finances and achieve business success. When Rounded launched in 2015, it was the first tool of its kind dedicated to freelancers in the Australian market.
Look for New Ways to Collaborate
“Most of our team of around 15 people are freelancers who work remotely. We’ve found it’s important to use a creative approach to help build relationships and create the right culture, which doesn’t necessarily happen organically when people aren’t working together in person.
We organise and promote in-person events so people can get to know each other better. At the same time, we also make sure everyone understands that we don’t really care when they do their work, as long as they’re clear on deadlines and do what needs to be done, we’re happy. To us, creativity in leadership allows people to work in a way that lets them be productive and meet the needs of the company at the same time.
Apply Growth Mindset and Chase Continuous Improvement
From a technology perspective, we’re always looking to innovate and improve our tools. Recently, we built a new feature, based on AI and machine learning, that allows our app to categorise users’ expenses instead of them having to enter everything manually. This sort of manual data entry is generally something that people accept as needing to be done, but we found a way to make it better by challenging ourselves creatively [to develop and build the new feature]. We can see that 98 per cent of the suggestions that the algorithm makes in the app are accepted and the average user saves half an hour to one hour each month.”
Oliver’s creativity tip: “Look to bigger companies for creative inspiration. We ran a strategy session last year and invited an ex-colleague from a very large global software company. Showing our team what's possible when you grow to a certain size changed their mindset completely and inspired the development of two new customer-focused initiatives.”
What To Try
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