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Jaleel Abdul of Adobe

Can you quantify the impact of creativity?

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Attempts to quantify the impact of one of business’ greatest intangibles – creativity – found firms which were more creative witnessed better revenue growth than less creative counterparts. Jaleel Abdul, senior director of human resources for Asia at Adobe, says companies can foster a creative culture by placing trust in their staff.

Last week, Adobe released the results of its Creative Dividend Study which attempts to quantify the impact of one of business’ greatest intangibles – creativity – has on the business bottom-line. The study found firms that were more creative witnessed better revenue growth compared with less creative counterparts. They also enjoyed greater market share and competitive leadership vis-à-vis their less creative counterparts by a factor of 1.5 to 1.

Finally – and this is a finding that will delight HR practitioners everywhere – the survey showed that 69% of creative firms also reported winning awards and national recognition for being a “best place to work”, while just 27% of less creative companies achieved similar accolades.

The survey found creative companies and a creative culture in general creates a high-performance work environment, since 83 creative firms reported winning national attention, while only 26 less creative firms did the same – this was a huge ratio of three to one.

Why is this? Well, in today’s knowledge economy, companies which encourage a creative culture enable their employees to create an impact through their work, be it to the business, to society or towards their own development. This satisfies the highest part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – self-actualisation – which then leads to employee happiness.

Fostering a creative culture

How can firms foster creativity or a creative culture? At Adobe, we believe the first step comes by placing trust and confidence in our employees, avoiding a culture of micromanaging, and letting our employees take charge of their day to day work.

This builds their confidence and leads to a continuous flow of inspiration within the company. Employees are encouraged to share their ideas with different community groups, with colleagues and with the senior management team, and are also given the opportunity to build upon their ideas and take them to fruition.

While having the right mindset is crucial, the other part of the equation is to ensure there are adequate channels and outlets for the practice of creativity because creativity is like a muscle which needs to be exercised in order to remain healthy.

So, from the first day an employee joins the company, he or she has various opportunities to be creative – from Hackathons and Hackfests to KickBox and CodeJams. Employees are also given the chance to participate in forums where they can meet the best minds in the industry and share learnings.

The great thing about the initiatives we have described above is not only have they allowed Adobe employees to exercise their creative muscle, but they have also generated implementable ideas.

For example, in one of our Adobe Hackathons – which is a half-yearly event where employees from various technology teams participate to build prototypes of their innovative ideas – the winning team created a workflow for consumers to purchase Adobe software by using a smartphone. By simply scanning the barcode, the consumer can not only get details about the products, but can also enrol for a subscription and remotely install Adobe products to all their other devices through their smartphone itself.

Apart from the recognition and the handsome rewards this team received, they were given an opportunity to present their idea at the Global Tech Summit at the Adobe Headquarters in San Jose. Adobe is now using the workflow created by them, and they were also able to file a patent for this workflow.

We believe creativity should be incorporated as a key organisational metric when it comes to measuring success.

Speaking of patents, the number of patents that Adobe has created in the past year alone – about 300 – allows us to continually innovate in this space. Combined with innovative thinking, we have evolved our creative software from being sold out of boxes to a cloud-based subscription model that works better for the always-on digital era.

In terms of workplace happiness, employees have ranked Adobe as one of the best places to work at, coming in at No.83 on the Fortune list of 100 best companies to work for in 2014. This is a strong testament to the effectiveness of freeing up employee creativity.

As businesses in Asia increasingly shift towards a knowledge-based economy, those which embrace and foster creativity and innovation will lead the way.

In fact, we believe creativity should be incorporated as a key organisational metric when it comes to measuring success because it positively impacts both employee satisfaction and business outcomes.

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