Adding Creativity to a Data-Driven Approach
- December 15, 2021
In today's world, organizations use data and analytics frequently, if not exclusively, to drive decision-making across all types of operations — from finance and logistics to customer service and marketing. Data is critical to maximizing efficiency and productivity. However, innovation is also essential to surviving and succeeding in a faster-than-ever business environment. Arriving at a solution will require a fresh point of view that avoids the existing mindsets and processes that led to the roadblock in the first place.
By adopting a creative mindset, organizations can avoid the trap of creating new solutions by solely looking at challenges through a very focused lens. After all, data is only valuable if properly framed in the proper context by identifying key elements such as the problem, the audience, and the environment.
How does adding creativity help organizations boost performance?
Milissa Campbell, Managing Director for Health Plan and Healthcare Insights at NTT DATA, has found that creativity is essential to success, even for organizations with a heavy emphasis on data and analytics. She cites her passion for creating fused glass in her spare time as an example of a beautiful combination of science, math, and art.
Campbell, who has always dedicated time to creative and artistic pursuits, discovered fused glass art by chance while trying to make little pendant lamps out of wine bottles for Christmas. While looking for a tool to properly cut the glass from the bottles, her boyfriend found a glass art studio that gave them great advice on what to buy and offered them some introductory classes into fused glass art.
Campbell gave the classes a try and soon developed a passion. These days, her glass art has come a long way. Campbell's work can be seen in galleries, and she also teaches local kids how to create their little glass masterpieces. The artistic process has also given her new perspectives that have helped her succeed in the workplace.
A perfect example of Campbell applying creativity to her day-to-day work is when she works on dashboards for clients. Dashboards aggregate data and present it in a way that allows users to gain insights and make effective decisions quickly. Her extensive experience with artistic composition in creating her glass art allows her to effectively arrange the visual elements of the dashboard, such as making sure that things are spaced evenly or that colors and fonts are appropriate.
Creative thinking is also key to innovation — essential for any business looking to maximize its bottom line. These days, organizations have access to troves of data, but the challenge is harnessing it correctly.
"Consultants can be a dime a dozen, but to be a good consultant, you need to be able to step outside the box and be a creative problem solver," says Campbell.
What can data-driven organizations do to improve creativity?
According to Campbell, focusing on the holistic wellbeing of employees is an effective way to engage team members from top to bottom and spur them to think more creatively. Organizations should emphasize encouraging creativity through initiatives that promote inclusive team environments, greater flexibility and freedom, and a more open office design. Other ways of improving employee wellness and engagement, such as gym memberships and lunchtime art classes, can also go a long way toward increasing morale and productivity.
"Engaging in creative activities stimulates and builds that muscle, which then fosters innovation," she explains. "And we've seen so much of that in Silicon Valley, with the foosball tables and video games, that it has become a running joke. But when you look at these companies, especially in innovation centers, you can see the results. So how are we surrounding ourselves with creativity to stimulate our work and get the workforce more engaged?"
NTT DATA's recent whitepaper on becoming a human-centric employer lists increased employee engagement and retention as the primary pillar for unlocking unprecedented value in the workplace. The paper states that even in today's digital-dominated environment, employees remain the heart and soul of a business. Companies need a holistic approach to improve their team members' financial, physical, mental, and social health.
That could mean expanding beyond traditional benefits to promote a better work/life balance with new policies that enable flexible work arrangements and comprehensive support for employees working remotely. It could also include more progressive wellness benefits, such as counseling services, ergonomic furniture, fitness programs, and initiatives that promote charitable work or a greater connection with nature.
This improved focus on wellbeing and empowered work act as a catalyst that compounds into unprecedented value for the company. As employees become more engaged, purposeful, and productive, there is a resulting boost in customer satisfaction and overall organizational performance. It's a win-win for the entire team that starts by looking at each employee as an individual and empowering them to be the best they can be.
Campbell adds that recruiting and retaining employees who integrate creativity with the rational side of a business can help any company spark innovation and outperform expectations. And in today's ultra-competitive landscape, this can be the difference between success and failure.
"Even though I work in a very left-brained type of environment, we have to step back and think creatively about our problems," she explains. "The consulting field used to hire mostly engineering types, but now we're also looking for team members who have MFAs or Fine Arts degrees. We want people to not only think analytically and linearly but also those who can think creatively."