In Part 1 of this topic, I talked about the importance of creativity in branding, and how sometimes all it takes is just one individual to come up with good ideas which help build a brand. In fact, a single idea can transform the success of an entire product range or commodity.
Creativity is a big topic for the individual, and it is similarly big when it comes to the creativity of groups. Either way, creativity is important and mostly under-rated in any business, but I think there’s a particular need for more and better creativity in the world of oils and fats for many reasons.
Firstly, it is an industry that has had so little creative input in the past. Secondly, and not many people like hearing it, the fact remains that for the buying public, edible oils and fats just aren’t that interesting. But the matter need not rest there.
Having a good attitude to branding isn’t so much about hoping people are interested in your brand – it’s about doing things which make your audience motivated. And few ways of motivating an audience are more cost-effective than being creative – quite often, good ideas cost nothing.
Individuals can do a lot on their own, but groups can be great, too. This is good news for the oils and fats industry, as it has many groups and some of them are very large. They can all be more creative than they are.
When we think of creativity, it’s easy to come up with examples that are to do with individuals. In science, there’s Newton and Einstein. With painting, there are Picasso or Monet. For music, there’s anyone from Beethoven to Lady Gaga. And with the written word there’s yet another almost endless list, from Shakespeare to Stephen King to JK Rowling.
When it comes to groups, it’s a bit more of a struggle to find examples. At first glance, it really seems that, for the most part, groups really aren’t that creative. How many governments can you think of that produced a medical breakthrough, a religion that produced a famous painting, or a political party that produced a half-decent play? It’s not easy.
Yet, groups do produce creative things. For example, NASA came up with the technologies that put a man on the moon; the Lockheed ‘Stunk-works’ came up with the F117 – the world famous first-ever stealth bomber; and Apple came up with the iPad and iPhone.
Big or small groups?
When it comes to creativity there appears to be a massive difference between the capabilities of small groups versus large ones. Groups have a tendency to change and often stifle their members – often without their members realising it. People who work in groups often have to think about many things besides their own creative efforts, such as:
- The lure of appreciation
- The greed of promotion
- The shame of humiliation
- The fear of demotion
- Hierarchies, and bosses to worry about
- Knowing what pet projects are ‘in favour’ and what to avoid
- Working around other people’s worries, insecurities, or stuff they might find offensive
When it comes to the oils and fats industry, there’s no decision to be made. You either get things done by working with the groups you find yourself in, or you don’t get things done at all.
Also, on a more optimistic note, big projects require big numbers of people. A nice illustration of this came my way a few weeks ago when I had a chance conversation with a cyber-security specialist in a large multinational corporation. When I asked him how broad his area was, he pointed out that cyber-security has now become such a big area that there is no way that one person can handle it all.
So, unless your idea of using creativity is to write a novel or a song, then the chances are that you will be working on a project that will require the creativity of more than one brain. On top of that, even if you do find yourself coming up with an idea which is totally the result of one brain, you will almost certainly need to work with other people in order to get that idea implemented. Getting an idea to work, with a group of people, is as important as coming up with the idea in the first place.
In the world of creativity, this last point doesn’t get talked about anywhere near often enough. There is always a fascination with the business of coming up with ideas, but the critically important thing is the execution phase. Getting ideas executed via other people is a vastly complex topic. So complex, in fact, that few people are even remotely good at it.
If you are going to achieve big things, the chances are high that you are going to need big groups of people. Projects like a jet airliner, an aircraft carrier or construction of the Shanghai Tower involve thousands of people and their brains. Sure, many of the tasks will be straightforward, but along the way there will be smaller-scale problems to be overcome that require creativity from brains to get the job done. In short, there is too much for a single person.
However, there is a lot of information to suggest that big groups aren’t big on creativity. If you look at recent innovations that have changed the world, large organisations are conspicuous by their absence:
- YouTube was the great leap forward in terms of video and broadcasting, but it didn’t come from CNN or the BBC.
- Google transformed how we get information from computers, but it didn’t come from IBM.
- PayPal and Bitcoin have started to revolutionise how people move money, but these ideas didn’t come from banks like HSBC, Barclays or Goldman Sachs.
- SpaceX and Blue Origin are pioneering 100% reusable spacecraft, an innovation that could have come from NASA or any of the many governments.
- Tesla electric cars became the biggest selling car in Norway in 2015, yet this new step (in what is conceptually an old technology) didn’t come from Ford, General Motors or Chrysler.