It is received wisdom that creativity and business don’t make a good mix. That any organisation striving to succeed in a creative sector has to be run by left-brained ‘suits’ to balance out those wacky ideas people and keep things on an even keel. That, over time, a creative company will somehow lose its mojo and fade into the leaden grey of corporate complacency.
These are all myths of course. A single web search will disprove these and many more. The UK has a proud tradition of success in the creative industries – from luxury gifts through to art and video games.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport estimates that there are more than 100,000 businesses operating in the creative industries with more than 90 per cent of them being small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
It is well past time that, as a society, we woke up and celebrated this shining example of British success, perhaps starting by debunking some more ‘creative’ myths:
Myth: The creative industries are small beer compared with other sectors.
Reality: Britain is a world leader in the creative industries. These sectors employ hundreds of thousands of people, generated £150 billion pounds of revenue in 2013 and are responsible for more than 10 per cent of the UK’s exports – more than the manufacturing sector.
Best known as the actor behind Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, Andy Serkis founded Imaginarium Studios in 2011 in London. It specialises in turning human performances into computer-rendered film images and is handling all the motion capture for the forthcoming new Star Wars trilogy.
Myth: Creative people are not analytical enough for business
Reality: Recent research into the brain has thoroughly disproved this old chestnut and shown that our best and most creative ideas actually come when we are engaged in ‘rational’ thinking or analysing something, on the face of it, relatively mundane.
Emma Bridgewater’s ‘eureka’ moment came when she couldn’t find a cup and saucer to give to her mother has a birthday present. Her world-famous pottery brand now turns over more than £12 million a year.
Myth: The only creative industries that truly count are film and computer games.
Reality: This is patent nonsense. The Government was infected by this strange idea in 2013 and considered removing crafts from its list of recognised creative industries. Then somebody pointed out that the sector generated £3.4 billion a year.
Take Francesca Kemp, a mother of two who set up Crafty Revolution in 2012 selling her own crocheted homewares. In just three years she has been named Small Business of the Year, been lauded at Downing Street and expanded into children’s clothes, bunting and decorations.
Myth: Creative business owners are not ‘money people’.
Reality: The UK’s creative industries are, as we’ve already seen, immense cash cows for the country’s economy. For this to have happened, those who have driven this success have had to have been both creative and smart with the finances. Take Thomas Heatherwick, the creative genius behind Heatherwick Studios. He first emerged as a talented designer in the late 1990s, setting up in business on his own. He has gone on to build a world-renowned design business employing 150 architects and designers and with a turnover approaching £10 million that is behind such designs as the 2012 Olympic Cauldron and the new London Routemaster bus.
Myth: Only certain types of ‘geniuses’ are creative
Reality: Consider the most successful creative businesses and you can see how silly this is. Anybody, from any walk of life, from any discipline and with any educational background can be a creative success. A 1920s study by Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman followed children with high IQs throughout their lives. While some did end up in creative professions, just as many became tradesmen or clerical professionals.
J.K. Rowling certainly didn’t stand out as a ‘genius’ in her previous life as a secretary working for Amnesty International when a delayed train gave her the idea for Harry Potter.