Validation – it’s a good thing. Although it’s not exactly breaking news, a recent Business Week Special Report on the increasingly relevant Creativity Economy model (Business Week Special Report) acts as a compass point, suggesting to us at the agency that we’re on the right track. This report explores the evolution of our nation’s business environment to an economy where creativity is the most valuable asset, as opposed to Knowledge – hence, the rise of the "Creativity Economy."
The report explains why the Knowledge Economy has lost relevance (for instance, we’ve come to learn that the U.S. doesn’t have a lock on manufacturing, engineering and technology products and processes), and the emerging Creativity Economy is a model with fewer limitations to success for its participants and especially advantageous to companies in the U.S. with their thumbs on the pulse of consumer culture.
CMO Magazine, a relatively new and promising industry publication, is also touting the rise of creativity-as-currency, having dubbed its September edition, "The Innovation Issue: Genius, Inc. How to Create a Culture of Ideas." The majority of the issue’s articles explore companies’ marketing teams and leaders who are taking risks to tap into and capitalize upon creativity. Among the insightful articles in this issue, one entitled "Dream Weavers: Today’s Top Marketers Speak Out About What it Takes to Stay Creative" (CMO Magazine "Dream Weavers" article) taps into CMOs and CEOs from innovative powerhouses like GE, Yahoo! and The Home Depot (What? No Airfoil?) for their input on trends, visions and philosophies that are informing truly original and imaginative marketing strategies.
So, what does this public examination and discussion of a modern, innovation-based economy mean to us, and to our clients? Selfishly, the first thing that occurs to me is, "Phew — we’re not out of minds!" As an organization that promises to encourage, breed and deliver Higher Thinking, it’s empowering to hear third-party perspective that, in fact, what we’re selling is relevant, valuable, and has an audience.
This doesn’t mean that we at Airfoil don’t value the drivers of the Knowledge Economy – after all, we champion these drivers each and every day in our work for clients. What’s changed in today’s marketplace is that companies must bring to the table more than know-how: more than a new product, more than a new process. The very products of our clients’ endeavors – technologies that allow people and organizations unprecedented levels of efficiency and impact – relieve all of us in industrialized nations of the more monotonous and arduous tasks in the workplace, freeing us up for more creative ventures. With this new energy reserve – and a Knowledge glut, to boot — companies are challenged to maintain their competitive advantages by telling resonating stories behind their actual goods and services and nurturing emotional connections with their customers and employees.
So, it seems that what we are experiencing in the technological revolution is cyclical and, to some degree, expected: "So you invented the wheel. Great idea – now I can move things around faster. By the way, who’s going to invent the millions of subsequent innovative applications of this round thing? How can it benefit mankind? And what value will the marketplace put on these subsequent innovations, as compared to the idea of origin?"
In light of this shift, creative industries are in an interesting position as both idea- and (inevitably) results-driven organizations. The Creativity Economy model does pose inherent challenges, especially in a culture conditioned to seek tangible, bottom-line results for its efforts. Transactions, capital and assets in the Creativity Economy will be far more subtle and subjective than in a Knowledge Economy — how will this change the competitive field, and what we deem "success?" A new breed of superstars will emerge, but their worth may be more debatable and controversial, because creativity is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak.
We welcome the dialogue – and the questions it begs — around this topic. The call for companies to exercise truly innovative thinking plays to Airfoil’s greatest strengths. I feel like we’re poised to succeed in this model — as are our clients who are truly fast, imaginative companies, and about whom we communicate in revolutionary ways.
– Jane Berger