Creativity is usually seen as a personal quality. Certain people just excel at creative thinking and translating that into profitable ideas. Mavericks, artists, think-outside-the-box unicorns.
But what do you get in a room full of creatives with the same experiences, identity and cultural or social perspectives? Just a lot of the same ideas. More consensus, but less challenge. In short, less creative creatives.
Diversity and inclusion have become more than HR tick-boxes or buzzwords. There are hard numbers linking diversity to success. Research by McKinsey & Company showed that companies in the top quartile for executive-level diversity (specifically gender and ethnic/racial) were more likely to outperform their peers financially.
Diversity is key at Bray St, as we draw from global talent and skillsets to work with innovative and future-focused partners around the world. Our team is decentralised but collaborative, exposed to new ways of thinking and, ultimately, is stronger for it.
Daniel Dagher, our Founder and Client Director, explains: "We're lucky to have a team with such a variety of experiences and perspectives. Everyone gets to offer some unique input and help shape what we do. And it's not just LGBTQIA+. We've got a mix of ages, races, nationalities, career stages and relationship types. I love empowering them to express their differences. The whole team is richer for it, and we produce better work."
Here are the key points to know about diversity in creative teams - and how to make it work.
- Creativity needs diversity
Arguably, diversity is necessary in every company. Empowering diverse and underrepresented perspectives is simply part of being an ethical business.
But diversity’s greatest strength is in creative idea generation and problem-solving. A team with different identities and experiences faced with a challenge have more options for solutions. Not just, “we do this because we’ve always done it this way”, but applying outside-the-box thinking to tackle problems effectively.
Diversity is more than demographic variables like race and gender - it’s also psychological aspects like different values and abilities. When you deliberately form creative teams with varying perspectives, they’re more likely to be open to exploring new ideas.
- Diversity is critical in leadership
A Harvard Business Review study showed that organisations with diversity in leadership out-performed other companies. Applying the lens of ‘inherent’ (e.g. race) and ‘acquired’ (e.g. living or working abroad) diversity, they saw that companies with leaders who had at least three traits of each were more financially successful. Employees were more likely to report growth in market share (45%) and new markets (70%).
Why? Because when leadership values diversity and seeks that input, they are receptive to new ideas and more likely to invest in them. It creates a culture where people are empowered to “speak up” and have an impact.
The same HBR study showed that in companies without diverse leadership, women, people of colour and LGBTQIA+ people were less likely to win endorsement for their ideas than straight white men. On a practical level, that’s a vastly underutilised resource. On an ethical level, that’s not a progressive and socially conscious organisation.
To benefit from the diversity of ideas in your creative team, those in executive and leadership roles need to value them too.
- You understand your clients and audience better
You can have a team with the best creative skillset, but if they lack insight into the experience of your customer base, they are less likely to reach them. When you work with global companies and startups, these perspectives are essential. HBR research found that “A team with a member who shares a client’s ethnicity is 152% likelier than another team to understand that client.” It stands to reason: when you have personal insight that aligns with your audience, you can speak to them and meet their needs.
Diverse perspectives widen the potential consumer base you connect with. If you want to make inroads into new markets, you need people who understand them.
- Diversity demands different management
Different perspectives foster growth and innovation - but it takes work to get the most out of it. Opinions can come into conflict, diversity can get in the way of quick consensus - after all, if everyone thinks the same, it’s easier to decide on a course of action or creative direction.
But for creatives and innovators, it’s so important to be challenged and feel empowered to challenge others, helping to overcome biases and push change.
Managing diverse teams means fostering a spirit of collaboration over competition. Just as agencies have learned the value of cross-functional collaboration and different skillsets, we must do the same for collaboration across other kinds of personal diversity. Diverse creativity needs to be supported by other factors in a workplace, providing opportunity for genuine knowledge-sharing and fostering creative thinking skills.
The payoff is a creative team where everyone is utilised to the best of their ability, feels empowered to push innovative ideas and challenges the status quo. And for us, that’s where the best work happens