Led by design – why creativity belongs in the boardroom

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Design creativity in the boardroom
Hanna Läikkö – why boardrooms need creative directors

Hanna Läikkö

Hanna Läikkö, principal of business design at Moving Brands, urges companies to reserve a space for a creative specialist at the top table

With many big businesses, including Uber and John Lewis, undergoing rebrands in recent months, it’s clear that the leaders of some of the world’s most prominent organisations recognise the importance of design in delivering sustainable commercial success.

But this understanding is rarely reflected in the composition of most companies’ boards. Recent research suggests that, while about 90 per cent of business leaders believe that design is important to commercial success, only seven per cent value a creative input to decision-making at the highest level.

The long-term success of any business is largely defined by the decisions of its key people, who often make them in the confines of the boardroom. Their choices are crucial to whether the company stays competitive over time. A diversity of backgrounds and skills at board level can bring a wider range of perspectives to bear on the issues at hand and generate more ideas and possible strategies to consider.

It’s also well documented that boards, which are under increasing pressure to represent society better, are seeking ways to avoid being deemed male, pale and stale. The potential exuberance and non-conformism of a design professional could help in this respect. The ability to create original ideas can be a crucial element for propelling a business, but the presence of a creative at board level can also add empathy for the customer, inspiration to innovate at scale and leadership on issues such as equality and the environment.

A matter of discourse

It’s no secret that people in design world rarely speak the same language as CEOs and FDs. It’s therefore important that creatives (and any others making the step up, for that matter) are offered leadership training to prepare them for their new habitat. We can learn from companies that have a record of developing their boards over the long term. They often have programmes dedicated to nurturing talented employees for higher office.

I do feel that the creative profession as a whole has more work to do in educating business and society more broadly about the tangible benefits of good design. Beyond its power to innovate, differentiate and “premiumise” goods and services, creativity is key to articulating an engaging vision that can galvanise a whole organisation to perform better.

Bringing a creative perspective into the boardroom is a chance for companies to harness transformative power, but only once they fully appreciate the possibilities that these skills can unlock. Once demystified, the benefits of creativity to a board should excite a company’s leaders and fill its shareholders with confidence in its ability to unlock opportunities for long-term value creation and growth.

For further information about Moving Brands, visit movingbrands.com

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