Back in the day, success was driven by widget sales. Ever since the industrial age, companies have mass produced all sorts of products–from cars to light bulbs to tvs–and then sold the hell out of them. The goal was simple: sell as many widgets as possible. This also spawned drastic changes in the way we work and live.
Advertising widget sales centered around the attributes of products. Product photos accompanied bullet call-outs of the widget’s features and consumers were enticed by the one-up-manship of product ingenuity. That seems so simple–just make it function better than the other. Or at least make it easy to claim that. This doesn’t happen as much anymore.
Today, we are firmly entrenched in an era of creativity. It is undeniable. Brands like Apple have supplanted tech behemoths like Microsoft (although the Redmond, WA company is far from done) as the corporate titans. Why? Because they relied on creative design and creative motivations for fairly banal solutions. The world had phones and computers (not tablets yet, I suppose) and hardly needed new ones. Until, that is, they saw a much more creative and elegant version.
I share a cubicle wall with my company’s Director of Design. I honestly believe him to be one of the most important people in our business, because he is the person who is charged with delivering the product in such a way that is distances us from competition. To take business goals and make them creative. To make another few margin points used to the call of the day with spreadsheets dictating product lines. Today, Adobe Illustrator dictates product lines instead of Microsoft Excel. Thankfully, my buddy is very good at this role and I think he is nearly untouchable.
Another good friend is a carpenter here in my hometown. He has all of the skills and knows more that most will ever know about old homes and how to rehab them into gems. But that’s not reason he is so good at his job. He is good at his career because he can look at the project from the x’s and o’s, but also from a holistic and creative approach. As opposed to merely looking at the task, he looks at how it blends in to the overall flow of a home’s design. That is his point of differentiation. And that is his unique selling advantage.
The reason creativity has become so important and led to creative designers becoming near rock-stars (for example, look at Jony Ives of Apple) is that they help us connect with consumers. Consumers want to be excited…to be inspired. Sure, an increase in utility can be inspiring, but more inspiring is elegance and fluidity. And the sense that you are working with something that took thought and care to produce.
Simon Senek nailed this when he spoke about the “Why” when trying to connect buyer habits with manufacturers. Consumers want to but because of the “why” – the emotional undercurrent of a product – rather than the “what” – the utility use of the product. This seems so simple, but it is the reason that the Zune–a very competent and effective MP3 player–was lapped 100s of times over by the iPod. The iPod combined design and ease which was much more akin to why consumers want portable music anyways. Music is an expression of love and art and the piece of wires and chips that acts as the conduit should faithfully embrace that art.
So for now, take a look around and see the exciting age of creativity. And then take a look at what you are doing creatively. Are you being creative in your life and work? If the answer is yes, you should be in good shape. If not…get moving.