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Business & Creativity: You could be dull in another era. Not this one.

Charismatic, mesmerising and creative. Three adjectives that are associated with the Advertising industry (what were you thinking?). Unfortunately the same 3 adjectives are seldom used while referring to MBAs or mainstream business. In a world where following ‘best practices’ (nice way to say, ‘stop getting creative’) gets incentivised, clichéd terms like ‘thinking out the box’ generate sarcastic laughter more than inspiration.
So we asked Vrinda Gupta to share some perspectives with us, about lessons that we can learn from the advertising world to add a little more zing to our day-to-day work. Vrinda completed her graduation in Advertising from Pennsylvania State University (consistently being on the Dean’s List) and has worked in New York, Los Angeles and Mumbai with the some of the best names in the business – from Nike to Nickelodeon (not saying that just for impact). Over the next few blog posts, Vrinda takes us into the overlapping worlds of creativity and business. Take it away, Vrinda |

Business & Creativity | Pennsylvania State University | Vrinda GuptaYou could be dull in another era. Not this one.

These are the words of David Woodside, President Sales of one of the most creative companies in the world, Google.

We live in an age where miraculous quickly becomes mundane, and creativity is no longer a competitive advantage but a competitive imperative. Today ideas, knowledge and skills have taken over agricultural produce and minerals as the most valuable commodities. Economic growth is being driven not so much by scientific thinking and knowledge but by imagination and ‘right-brain’ thinking.

According to a recent Newsweek article, an IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Clearly, the need for creative thinking in business is undisputed.

The accepted definition of creativity is the production of something original and useful. But far too many people think of creativity as just artistic self-expression and talent. Creativity is not a departure from facts and figures. Creativity is just as technical and analytical as it is expressive. It is a highly developed sense of perception. When Steve Jobs was asked to define creativity, he said: “Creativity is just connecting things.” Creativity is the ability to connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas from different fields.

When the brain sees a problem, it kicks the left brain, the analytical side of the brain, into action and searches for obvious facts and solutions first. When the answer is not obvious, the right side of the brain, where memories are stored and patterns are detected, becomes activated too. Now the left brain has access to information that usually sits in the back of our heads and, with the help of the right brain, it starts searching for unseen patterns and alternative meanings. Highly creative people are extremely good at engaging both the sides of the brain, and the creative process is a back-and-forth between the brain analyzing the available clues and drawing on seemingly unrelated things it knows to make connections it would have otherwise missed.

A Harvard University research that was conducted over six years and interviewed 3000 executives, found that the No. 1 skill that separates innovators from noncreative professionals is “associating”- again, being able to connect the dots or thinking ‘out of the box.’

Speaking of the proverbial box, advertising agencies are increasingly staffing their ranks with people with no prior experience in advertising (of course, only after having proven their ability in their respective fields). Why? Because they have worked with problems outside the ‘box’ of advertising and can bring a unique perspective of things that maybe someone from the industry can not. Some of the best strategic planners I have worked with in my career in advertising so far came from fields as diverse as computer programming, insurance risk management, photojournalism etc.

Creativity allows us to create opportunities and find solutions where seemingly none exist. Yet it’s not just about being good and successful in our fields of work. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are in dire need of creative solutions, from sustaining our nation’s economic growth, to fighting terrorism to bringing universal education. Solutions to problems like these need people to constantly contribute original ideas and to be receptive to the ideas of others.

But can creativity be learnt? It is true that some people are born with the capacity to think differently. But with due diligence and focused attention, creativity can be inculcated, to a large extent, just like any other skill. It doesn’t always take a neurological quirk, a childhood trauma, or a chronic lobe seizure to be creative.

More on that in my next post…

-Vrinda Gupta

If you are tired of reading posts on MBA, essays, GMAT preparation and admissions, then take a break and change gears a little. Are there any creative initiatives that your company or you have undertaken? Share your thoughts with Vrinda.

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

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