At its most fundamental, creativity is about problem-solving. Species solve the problem of survival by creating new versions of themselves. And companies solve the problem of survival by creating new products and services.
And it has been a big problem to solve. Essayist Peter Georgescu wrote on this subject in the October, 2007 edition of Fortune magazine (p. 74). In the essay, he discusses how over the past decade or so, companies have struggled against what he calls “the cancer of 21st century commerce,” which is the presence of fierce price competition as a way of differentiation to drive market share.
The problem with price competition is that it will, eventually, hit the point of diminished returns. At some point, companies will either have to learn how to make products and services stick out on the basis of what they do for consumers, or face one form of extinction or another.
The essay raises a hopeful note, which is that creativity, far from being an airy skill set, available only to the anointed, can be learned and taught. While it might at times be mysterious, it can also be planned for, cultivated and expected. And in Georgescu’s perspective, it must be for companies that wish to thrive through the rest of the century.