If companies seek to promote creativity, it is not out of idealism. Creativity is a legitimate source of profit.
Creativity has garnered considerable attention within companies in recent years. In the Global CEO Study carried out by IBM in 2010, creativity represented the most essential quality in terms of leadership in the eyes of company leaders. Over 60% of the 1,500 CEOs surveyed across the world cited creativity as one of the most important management qualities, ahead of integrity (52%), global vision (35%), authority (30%) and open-mindedness (28%).
The reason is clear: creativity produces new concepts, patents and products. It is the driver of innovation. Creativity questions do not just concern large multinationals like Swatch, Apple and Novartis. SMEs can also invent and make their innovations a source of growth. Moreover, with its particularly creative economic fabric, its environment that promotes start-ups, its hautes écoles and its internationally famous laboratories, Switzerland is often described as the champion of innovation. In 2014, the country topped the Global Innovation Index published by the INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), as well as the list of the most innovative countries in Europe drawn up by the European Commission, the Innovation Union Scoreboard. Switzerland also distinguishes itself on account of its excellence in research (scientific publications, patents, etc.), according to the European report. However, its SMEs do not innovate enough domestically and do not collaborate enough.
Support given to creativity in Switzerland
In Switzerland, creative entrepreneurs are not lacking in support to bring their ideas to life. Numerous State and private organizations offer assistance to starting a business and innovation. For example, the Venturelab program, financed by the Swiss Innovation Agency, Innosuisse, organizes training dedicated to launching a start-up. The private fund “venture kick” selects young talent and provides them with finance of up to CHF 130,000, on the condition that their inventions come out of a haute école. Switzerland also has technology parks designed to house creative start-ups, like the Technopark in Zurich or the Innovation Campus at the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). And even private incubators to promote creativity, like the Swiss Creative Center in Neuchâtel.
The creative drive emerged at the end of the 20th century
Creativity has not always been so valued in economic activity. It was only at the end of the 20th century that it acquired the importance we recognize today. This development is the result of three phenomena:
- Developed countries saw noticeable service sector growth in their economies. The economy still relies on services, the “raw material” of which is made up of ideas, brands and other intangible assets.
- Globalization has brought with it a new international division of labor: production has moved to countries where labor is cheap and western economies have focused on cutting-edge technologies, concept creation, design and marketing of goods.
- The development of information and communication technologies has opened up new organizational possibilities for companies and has enabled them to focus on activities with higher value-added, notably the production of intangible assets.
For example, success in the automobile industry relies today above all on brand image, concept and after-sales service. In the 1970s however, being a leader in this sector meant being recognized on technical criteria, such as engine size.
Creativity and innovation: a challenge for emerging countries
Whilst Switzerland can today boast about its creativity and its capacity for innovation, it should not rest on its laurels. Emerging countries, including China, India and Brazil, are investing in this field to upgrade their performances. They have understood the growing importance of the creative industry and its growth potential. The creative sector also has the advantage of proving more resilient to economic crises than traditional industry. It proved this during the 2008 recession, as pointed out by the report “Creative Economy” published in 2010 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
For example, Nigeria’s film industry – called Nollywood – generates annual turnover of over USD 9 billion. It is the third largest film industry worldwide, after the US and India. Film now represents the second largest industry in the country, after hydrocarbons. It is up to Swiss entrepreneurs to demonstrate that they are able to keep their status as innovation leaders in the long term.
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