What Does Creativity Have to Do With Business?

What does creativity have to do with business? Business is about dollars and deadlines and suits, while creativity is about nerds and long hair and artsy-fartsy. Or is it?

As the digital technology revolution matures, it is becoming more about creativity and less about engineering.

That’s quoting Fred Wilson, venture capitalist and thought leader, in The Creative Phase last Saturday on his excellent A VC blog. This seems important to me:

Why the distinction between engineering and creativity? Can’t engineers be creative. Of course they can and are. Maybe there is a better word to use. But what I am trying to delineate between is the hard work of designing and building systems and the more abstract efforts to entertain, educate, and emote with these systems.

Looking over New York’s technology scene, he quotes an analysis that notes that New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), a two-year graduate program in technology, is part of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, not the corresponding school of engineering, much less business.

Was it accidental or intentional the ITP was located in an arts school? I don’t know. I should find out. But regardless of why it was done that way, the result has been impactful. ITP churns out talented people who are half engineer, half artist. And the things they build reflect that view of the world.

Of course generalizations are dangerous, Success isn’t creativity vs. engineering; it’s different for every case. There’s also showing up, luck, hard work, and of course marketing and so many other factors. But I think it’s important to jar our assumptions a bit. Fred Wilson’s nod to “abstract efforts to entertain, educate, and emote”  reminds me on my favorite quote about software, from Stuart Alsop: “Good software feels like silk. You know it when you see it.”

And this all reminds me that some serious portion of what we now call the great works of art – all of Shakespeare’s plays, for example – were created by people who were doing it for the money.  It wasn’t the business of art, it was that good art was good business.

I think about some of my favorite tech products: software I use, websites … isn’t Google Earth, for example, more art than engineering? The original Macintosh? Even – and you’ll have to forgive me for this one, but I do love spreadsheets – the first VisiCalc?


  • ArunChikkop says:

    All the most success full business in the world have Creativity as the core element. You can make lots of money without it too but you can make HELL MORE money and Satisfaction of using your creative brain. You will be amazed but 90% of the BIG companies in the world keep money after customer, employees, innovation and CREATIVITY.

  • Lu Schildmeyer says:

    For me it is all about combining creativity with selling an intangibles as I design Restaurants / Foodservice / Bars / Night Clubs for over 30 years.

    I feel there is more empasis on the personal touch creative than ever before.
    People are hungry for it and will seek it out.

    Lu Schildmeyer

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