Cultural Observations

Creativity needs less data and imitation, more diversity and insights

Cultural Observations

Creativity needs less data and imitation, more diversity and insights


By Imogen Randell

Every great idea is built on a great insight.

The best entrepreneurs create solutions based on an insight – from a challenge they or others have faced – combined with an understanding of people, knowing the cultural trends that are taking shape and aligning their idea with those trends.

This insight will always sit at the heart of conceiving, establishing and growing a successful business.

So, what happens to great insights when our world is tipped upside down?

Having been a market researcher for more than 20 years, it is certainly a curious time to be observing cultural trends. The events of the past two years have had a profound impact on all of us and it seems that there is no return in sight to times when life was more measured and “predictable”.

No longer can we make assumptions based on past behaviour, as it is now a less-reliable predictor of future behaviour when change and volatility is so rapid. The need to check, explore, reset and find new or emerging insights and behaviours is critical. But this can’t be done by simply relying on numbers, as they can only tell part of the story.

Unfortunately, the tech age means we are drowning in data. Data and numbers are now a commodity, published every day of the week with new claims. What we need are insights that emerge with the joining of the dots and stitching together of data, observations, inspiration and a powerful understanding of the complexity of people and their emotions and values.

Insights happen when we creatively join these dots to understand the “gap” in our lives – and it is the ideas that are sparked to fill the “gaps” which often win our hearts and minds.

The importance of diversity

But then we are faced with another challenge: how do our country’s decision makers know which idea to back as the winning idea? This is why every organisation needs leaders with different values, attitudes, capabilities, perspectives, experiences and backgrounds – all of whom feel included and open to contribute so that ideas can be built upon a premise of “yes, and …”

Without diversity, decision makers and board members risk holding a myopic view of Australian culture and who they are serving – a view underpinned by homogeneity and that we are all grouped together as the “middle class”. Not too well off, not too underprivileged, but in the “middle” with everyone else in a collective celebration of mateship.

However, the reality is that while we have gone through a collective global experience, it has been very much individualised. What now matters to some is the antitheses of others. Thinking we are all the same – and operating as such – stifles the courage to challenge our thinking and step out of line.

This belief has been exacerbated by “Fortress Australia” over the past two years. Creativity has been held back by our inability to experience new cultures and new ways of doing things that foster connections and fuel our imagination.

Curiosity, variety and hope

The good news is that Australians who can afford to take a holiday are wanting to travel and enjoy new experiences again – one in three are planning to book a holiday in the next three months compared to 20 per cent just 12 months ago. This is so important to spark our curiosity and our creativity.

One of our country’s uniting values in recent times has also been an underlying sense of optimism: “She’ll be right, mate.” Our AustraliaNOW tracking study (that commenced when the pandemic hit Australia) shows that despite all the tough times, most Australians held on to “hope” as their dominant emotion.

If there is an emotion that feeds curiosity and courage, one could argue “hope” would be at the top of the list. Thankfully, Australians have this in spades.

So, as we venture forth again into the world – and the challenges are even more wicked and complex than we could imagine – it is a powerful blend of insights, diversity, curiosity and optimism that will help us discover new ideas in these volatile and unpredictable times.

It’s time for us all to roll up our sleeves and find our entrepreneurial spirit for the next big idea. But first, maybe we all need a nice holiday to get those creative juices flowing.

This article appeared in The Australian on 5/9/2022.

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