Deloitte CMO: The differentiation point for businesses is creativity

David Redhill shares how the professional services firm is embracing its edge and fostering a "culture of participation" to better harness ideas across the business

Deloitte CMO, David Redhill
Deloitte CMO, David Redhill

Creativity generates an important tension in business by playing at the intersection of authenticity and commercialism, Deloitte’s CMO claims.

Speaking on the concept of creativity at today’s Currency House Creativity and Business Breakfast, David Redhill discussed how ideas are not just the domain of marketers but are also becoming an ever-more important part of business success. He also detailed how the professional services organisation is increasingly embracing its cultural “edge” in order to find competitive advantage.

Redhill pointed to a 2012 PRWeek C-Suite survey of 300 directors and executives where 96 per cent saw creativity as critical in determining business strategy. Yet 50 per cent admitted no one person in the organisation was responsible for it.

“It’s a fascinating disconnect – we spend so much time talking about and valuing the importance of technology, of big data and systems, but in the end, the most valuable point of differentiation and the greatest prize is creativity,” Redhill told attendees at the event, held at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

“This is because it can’t be bottled or replicated: You can’t make someone creative. There’s much we can do to rationalise it, but in the end great creativity can’t be quantified, even if it can be seen, understood and felt.

“Telling an old story in an original way will always reward you, but creating an entirely new story is the gold standard in the currency of ideas.”

One of the keys to tapping into creativity is recognising that it comes from across the business, Redhill said. As an example of how Deloitte is better embracing creative insights from across its employee ranks, he discussed its decision to embrace social media as an internal collaboration tool and drive a “culture of participation”.

One of its first social initiatives was a competition asking staff to design a t-shirt using the Deloitte Green Dot to describe its strategy and culture without using the corporate name.

Redhill said 700 designs were submitted from across the firm, with 10 final designs selected by its “extended creative team of 5000 people”. In the end, 10,000 t-shirts were given away to staff and their family and friends.

“It taught me an important lesson about how marketing is changing and where it is going,” Redhill said. “It is no longer the preserve of the creative department to come up with the big idea and foist it upon a waiting internal or external audience. The ones best able to articulate the idea are the ones who live it in the market every day, rather than the ones paid to create.

“If you can harness that collective sentiment, and create a culture of participation where every member of the business feels like they have a stake in your culture and are valued for their contribution, then you’re creating a powerful new business force – one that plays at the edge of what is possible in business, and of what is becoming increasingly probably as the dominant business model of the future.”

Redhill also outlined 12 key ideas derived from both his professional career as a brand marketer and freelance photographer, as well as his artistic experiences and insights.

CMO Interview: Deloitte’s David Redhill on a new brand of conversation

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Top of the list was the assertion that ideas are “your most certain, bankable bet for the future”. He also suggested art has the power to “ferret out the truth”, while creativity remains vital in generating new models for business in the future.

“Product improvement can be making better widgets; it can also be inspiring, equipping and motivating your people to deliver their smarts with energy and authenticity,” Redhill said.

“Most businesses say their most important asset is their people, then most ignore this truth. When you put people at the apex of your business model you can have fun, do good things and make money.”

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