Caught up in the 21st century’s creative revolution, companies are faced with a balancing act in attempting to marry innovative culture with business ethics
Creativity is the modern corporate equivalent of the philosopher’s stone – a mythical substance so powerfully imbued with magic that it was believed it could transform base metals into gold and silver. Just as medieval alchemists spent lifetimes in hopeful pursuit of this elusive commodity, so it is becoming the norm for 21st century management to devote huge chunks of time and resource to fostering a creative environment at work, in the hope that it will lead to that most critical of competitive success factors – innovation.
If you want to make your fortune in the current business climate, forget that great dotcom idea you've been nurturing and concentrate instead on distilling Essence of Creativity. It will sell by the gallon.
The problem facing companies is that the formula for this most elusive of elixirs remains as intangible and remote as the original philosopher's stone - indeed, many people question whether it exists at all.
Yet "creativity" has already assumed such a pivotal position in the new economy that its presence - or absence - in organisations is becoming a key determinant of such make-or-break metrics as stock price.
As the partners of ?What If!, an "invention" consultancy set up to spur on the creative revolution at work, point out, the so-called creative sectors - chiefly communications, information, entertainment, science and technology - are already worth $360bn a year in the US, making them more valuable than automobiles, aerospace and agriculture.
Even relatively staid UK management experts are jumping on the creative bandwagon. According to a recent report by management consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, there is now such an inextricable link between innovation and value creation that a failure to invest in the former "could be the death knell of many organisations".
But how do you go about forming such an environment, without falling prey to some of the wilder excesses of creativity?
Can you create an environment dedicated to innovation within the established corporate framework, or does the process lead inevitably to disorder and anarchy?
Even the movement's greatest proponents concede