Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

C-Suite Insider: Executive Survey Reveals What Big Businesses Need For Growth

Despite the headwinds facing companies, the bottom line for C-suite executives and small businesses is that the show must go on. You just can't sit still in times of crisis or uncertainty. 

Sure, you can hold off on hiring and become more productive with the current level of workforce you have but what is the secret to the productivity sauce?

MDC Partners (MDCA) and Allison & Partners have put together an executive survey answering that question. They interviewed top executives at 200 companies, including PepsiCo , ING Direct, The Gap , Progressive Insurance, IBM, YouTube, Macy’s, Burt’s Bees, Gatorade, Tivo and Dreamworks.  Miles S. Nadal, CEO of advertising holding company MDC Partners got right to the point when I asked him what are the key factors driving growth for the companies that were surveyed.

MN: Over the past few years there has been a clear shift in the business landscape overall, one that has elevated the importance of creativity as a leading growth driver. We set out to conduct this body of research to see if this trend was in fact going beyond the boardroom and into the marketplace.

In today’s economy brand success is predicated on experience over product, and creativity and collaboration are precursors to a quality brand experience.

The results clearly showed that creativity is no longer a nice to have, but a necessity to success. An overwhelming 98 percent of respondents cite creativity as among the top elements they’re looking to harness to advance their business in the year ahead, and 62 percent of CEOs view creativity as very important to success in their role.

LL: What should C-Suite Insiders do to spark and harness that type of creativity from their employees?

MN: We have seen many companies start to look out of the box in order to infuse creativity into their corporate culture. We have also seen many make it a widespread mission of leading organizations overall, as opposed to a siloed function. Some tips for breeding this kind of environment include:

1. Bring communications experts outside of the marketing department box and into new areas of operation to where they can impact overall business strategy.

2. Mix it up.  Create a task force with representatives from departments that usually don’t interact with each other. Task them with generating new ideas related to business strategy. Do this with outside partners as well, even competitors. Foster this environment of collaborative creativity everywhere.

3. Create a strong self-audit process as key to unleashing the broadest possible creative efforts within a corporation.

4. Create tighter synergies between the CEO and other officers in the C-suite (i.e. CIO and CNMO) to leverage creativity as a business competency that can drive business performance.

LL: Culture is key when creating such an atmosphere. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook they have such culture. It starts from the top. What kind of self-audit questions need to be asked in order to achieve such a culture?

MN: I couldn’t agree more that culture is key to creating an environment where creativity and collaboration can thrive.  In order to achieve such a culture, organizations need to ask themselves:

- What’s working and what’s not?
- How are we continuing to look at creativity within our organization in order to move forward with strong ideas and strong people
-Where do we see creativity heading in the next 5 years and where does organization fit in that framework
-How are we encouraging a creative culture from the top down

LL: There is a lot of uncertainty out there in terms of regulation, health care and taxes, how are those surveyed characterizing the economy today?

MN: I think we’re actually entering a very exciting time for businesses today, and our respondents appear to agree. In fact, 73 percent of respondents think we’ve entered the “imagination” economy, an economic ecosystem that rewards ideation over intake and is predicated on creativity. With this leading the direction there is opportunity for innovation and collaboration to drive a new crop of businesses and business models. The majority of respondents optimistically view imagination as the pathway to profitability and innovation frontiers

LL: Companies are doing more with less. What creative things are they doing to add to their bottom line?

MN: Much of the reason that creativity is such a critical element of business today is because it does in fact add to the bottom line. Not only that, but it leads to unique partnerships that help push stagnant brands forward. Take for example the recent partnership between Ford and Toyota to start building hybrid vehicles together. Two companies that are traditionally considered competitors are bringing together their strongest assets in order to capitalize on a market opportunity.

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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."