The Business Case For Having A Creative On Your Board

Three tips to help you get true creative minds—or directors with a track record for creative problem-solving—on your board to enable real innovation and ingenuity.

In a world overwhelmed with analytics, it’s a good idea to have a creative person on your board of directors. In fact, it is imperative. Because not having a creative perspective on your board might forever disrupt the ability of your company to achieve its full potential.

Most boards follow an age-old pattern of having the best and brightest, most analytical, well-versed in spreadsheet logic experts. Experts who are at home with facts and figures, interpreting charts, and quantifying everything.

But as anyone who has been around the block a few times knows, sometimes the numbers don’t tell you everything you need to know about a business. In fact, I would argue that they rarely do. Numbers are, at best, an indication of some quantifiable measurements—a guide to enable a snapshot of performance. At worst, paying attention to only those aspects of a business that can be quantified fails to capture the true essence of the business.

And in a board of directors environment, where typically a ‘who’s who’ of analytical thinkers are converging in an ever-increasing race to improve metrics, increase efficiency and master spreadsheet logic, having someone who thinks outside the box can be an invaluable addition to your team. Here are three tips to help you get true creative minds on your board of directors to enable real innovation and ingenuity:

1. Creativity Is Not About Art

When I talk about creativity, I am not asking you to invite a member of your local arts community to join your board. You are not looking for someone who plays the trumpet or paints landscapes of the American West (although that’s a skill I wish I had).

What you are looking for, however, is someone with a track record of solving problems in new and novel ways. A fresh approach to problem-solving that analytics alone cannot provide. You are looking for the type of person who has made several outside-the-box business or entrepreneurial decisions and has earned a measure of success thinking differently.

2. The Economy Has Changed

Today, the path to revenue has never been more complex. No longer is it good enough to live in the antiquated economy of “A” leads to “B,” and so we generate revenue. Today, many businesses that expect to grow revenue with the antiquated model, “I provide a product or perform service (A). Then I expect to be paid (B) for that product or service” are in for a rude awakening.

Today’s economy is far, far more nonlinear. Yesteryear’s approach to revenue generation and growth are, at best, only going to work for a short while longer and, at worse, no longer valid. Change is the only thing you can count on. The way consumers or businesses engage with you will be forever changing. So, why are you still recruiting your board the same way it has always been done–and expecting different results? There has got to be a better way to keep up with change. And that way is creativity.

3. Diversity

Yes, it’s true that a diverse board is necessary today. In fact, it’s critical to reflect our continually growing and changing community in who serves on your board of directors. But that diversity does not only extend to ethnicities these days. It also extends to diversity of thought.

Diversity of thought is about thinking creatively about an approach to solving problems. And including a diverse voice on your board will enable you to solve problems into the future and beyond that are plaguing many businesses today. The truth is that we may not know what the problems of tomorrow may bring. But without having someone creative serve on your board, you are not well equipped to deal with the unknown changes that linger on the horizon, forever looking to disrupt your path.

The human mind is the world’s most complex machine. It is one of incomparable and incredible power and can do so very much to uplift the spirit and condition of humanity. Coupled with the world’s finest example of a free enterprise market, no system in the history of earth has elevated more people out of poverty around the world and given more people opportunity. The potential power here is unprecedented!

But the human mind runs completely inefficiently by using the analytical side only. Because our brain is split into two hemispheres—one in charge of creativity and the other in charge of analytics—we are forever bereft of the full value the human mind can achieve if we are not using it in balance. And that balance means you must include creative thinking on your board. Because at the end of the day, having a creative-minded business professional on your board will work toward correcting this momentous imbalance. And allow your company to get one step closer to realizing its full potential.

Nir Bashan
Nir Bashan is the founder and CEO of The Creator Mindset LLC, where he teaches business leaders how to harness the power of creativity to improve profitability, increase sales, and make work more meaningful. His clients include AT&T, Microsoft, Ace Hardware, NFL Network, EA Sports, and JetBlue. He received a Clio Award and an Emmy nomination for his creative work on albums, movies, and advertisements, and was one of the youngest professors ever selected to teach graduate courses at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives in Orlando, Florida. Learn more about his new book, The Creator Mindset: 92 Tools to Unlock the Secrets to Innovation, Growth, and Sustainability (McGraw-Hill; August 2020), at www.nirbashan.com.