It's official: the name of the game is creativity. "shrinkage" has been banished from the business vocabulary (although it still shows up on "Seinfeld" reruns). The saying today is, "No one ever cut their way to greatness." Instead, for the individual, the team, the company, even the industry — creativity is the fuel for growth and opportunity. This issue's Unit of One section, They Have a Better Idea ... Do You?, looks the issue square in the eye. How do some companies and some people manage to create consistently creative ways of doing things? We asked 14 of the most creative people we know — from official "creatologists" to civil servants, industrial designers to TV programmers — and came up with a handbook of, well, creative answers.
For Tom Peters, creativity is an all-consuming passion. The most important act of creation, he argues in our cover story, is self-creation: each of us, says Peters, should imagine ourselves as a brand, The Brand Called You. As the CEO of Me Inc., it's up to each of us to create our own distinctive market positioning — to figure out what we do that adds value, what we're learning that keeps us ahead of the competition — and to invent a message and marketing strategy that communicates those attributes to the rest of the world.
Do you find Peters's argument convincing? Ready to build yourself into a brand? Take some advice from Scott Bedbury on What Great Brands Do. Bedbury joined Nike when it was a $750 million business; for seven years he directed the company's worldwide advertising efforts — and when he left (having unleashed "Just Do It" on an unsuspecting world), Nike was a $4 billion company. Today he's at Starbucks Coffee Co., which is now ... hmmmm, about a $700 million business.
The world of video games is filled with creativity — or at least it should be. But as Sony Changes the Game demonstrates, numbing habits and blind assumptions can ossify any industry. Which leaves it ripe for some creative force to overthrow the established order. That's what the rise of Sony's remarkable PlayStation unit demonstrates. By applying tough-minded creativity along a number of fronts — people, strategy, technology — PlayStation has built a $5 billion business.
You might think that hiring is about the most tedious and uncreative chore there is in the world of work. But when your company is adding hundreds of new employees a week, it takes real creativity to Hire Great People Fast. And even if your company isn't on a growth tear, the creative practices of Netscape, Cisco, and Yahoo! will spark your imagination and help you get your share of the genuinely creative people you'll need to compete.
Sometimes the whole point of creativity is to make yourself slightly uncomfortable — correction, totally uncomfortable. To find out how that kind of creativity works, visit Power Camp, a week-long, make-believe experience for businesspeople who want to confront their own hang-ups about power and authority. As Power Camp's creator, Barry Oshry, says, "Sometimes what has to bring us to life is doing the difficult thing."
One last dose of creativity: Silicon Valley Gets Potomac Fever. Talk about creative! John Doerr, Marc Andreessen, Kim Polese, and a group of high-tech execs are busily creating a new political movement. Their mission: use the principles of the Web to reinvent politics. Their partner: Vice President Al Gore. Even thinking about political reform requires the height of creativity.
Of course the most creative act of all is participation. Take a look at the innovative practices of Fluke Corp. profiled in our Report from the Future section or the savvy techniques of the information masters identified in NetWork. When you bring new ideas to your own team, talk about them over lunch, or use them as a spark for an online discussion, creativity inevitably results. And when you email us with your own fresh thinking, you inevitably help us to think more creatively.
A version of this article appeared in the August/September 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.