For years, many have made a distinction between business types (also sometimes known as 'the suits'), and 'the creatives', but that classification is becoming increasingly outdated as the line today between 'business' and 'creative' blurs.
Perhaps it’s somewhat due to the current economic conditions putting pressure on businesses to find cost-effective, new and innovative ways to solve problems, or maybe it’s partly related to all of the recent media attention to the 'humanization' of brands and the enterprise via social media— businesses are increasingly welcoming creative ideas and enjoying the successes that follow. In addition, today’s creative professionals are embracing their business-savvy.
Geoff Ledet, president and creative director of New York-based LETTER 7 Brand Communications Design (LINK: http://twitter.com/#!/letter7) holds a degree in visual communications (graphic design) and also writes and records original music in his spare time. He doesn’t believe in putting 'business' and 'creative' in two separate buckets: “I don’t believe that generalizations of any kind are accurate. Successful marketers combine business savvy and creativity every day….being a talented designer is very important, but truly effective marketing solutions are based on business principles, strategy and creativity”.
It’s not difficult to find other New York area businesses who would also agree that this blend of creativity and business-savvy is a great recipe for success-- sometimes literally. Consider SweeteryNYC, a business that has New Yorkers eagerly checking their Twitter accounts for the latest SweeteryNYC “bakery on wheels” location as they ride around the city offering tempting treats such as macaroons and whoopie pies. In addition to the highly visible main truck, they offer an events and brand promotion business and catering business for corporate and private special events. Co-founders Grant Di Mille and Samira Mahboubian both feel that their previous backgrounds helped give them a winning combination when launching SweeteryNYC in June 2009 and that continues today: “We took a combination of both of our backgrounds in marketing and advertising and put them into our business while working with our clients in creating campaigns that attract their target audience and build buzz about their brand.” With regard to creativity and business aptitude, the SweeteryNYC co-founders expressed their belief that the current climate really requires both: “In today’s environment, you have to be creative and unique but you have to still be business-savvy and have the ability to run a business, be it creative or financial….one has to be able to have both creative elements and business smarts in order to succeed.”
At the same time that creative professionals are applying their business-savvy, more traditional businesses are also finding value in collaborating with creative organizations.
Carter Edwards is the director and producer of The Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) National Touring Company and Corporate Training Program, part of one of the largest improvisation and comedy theaters in the United States. He offered some detail about the UCB corporate training program and the ‘method behind the madness’ with regard to how corporate clients can benefit from the program. Edwards explained that much of the same skill set that allows an improv performer or group of performers to connect with the audience successfully also applies to businesspeople in other fields of work. For example, engaging with and resonating with a target customer involves many of the same skills that are emphasized in improvisation when connecting with an audience: “listening, adjusting, and the ability to support and collaborate with each other in a team”. He also connected the dots between improvisation and business skills with regard to developing a professional’s ability (and flexibility) to quickly “shift gears”, and to “have faith in their own skill set and see where that skill set fits" into an organization.
Similarly, David Jacobson, owner/producer of TrivWorks in New York who describes himself as “always [having] been identified as a creative person” has utilized his creative background in order to offer fresh alternatives for companies looking for new and effective ways to accomplish goals such as corporate morale-boosting and customer engagement. Founded in 2009, TrivWorks is a corporate entertainment and team building company specializing in live customized trivia events. To date, Jacobson’s New York-based TrivWorks has presented close to 350 unique TrivWorks events featuring over 15,000 original trivia questions. Jacobson acknowledges that some of the business appeal of TrivWorks is in offering something different than the tried-and-true (but boring) corporate events, defining it as a “highly customized experience for corporate groups….[that is] fun, energetic, competitive and budget-friendly in ways that traditional forms of corporate entertainment and team building are not.”
Whether it’s the enterprise seeing value in opening up to creativity, or people formerly known solely as 'creatives' getting more business-savvy, it’s likely that success in today’s competitive marketplace, in New York and beyond, will belong to those organizations who can offer both.