First off, I think it’s important to say that I would not class myself as an expert in business. Equally, I'm not some theatre and the arts know-it-all. I have, however, had adequate experience in both areas, and been around both long enough to have noticed something…
You can't do one without the other.
It has recently become more and more apparent that as ‘the creative’ we seem to limit our creativity to our one focused niche and use this to try and achieve wondrous success and critical acclaim. A great goal to aim for, of course. But since when did limiting your creative expression ever deliver the best results?
I think we might be coming into a new era of ‘the creative’; that creatives are soon to be sort after, or even considered vital, in a way they aren't quite yet. Why now? Well, firstly as we all know, curricular arts are virtually non-existent and funding is becoming much harder to secure (something we and many others have talked about before). And you'd be surprised how much people notice something when it's taken away. When new generations reach adulthood and don't have the confidence or experience to speak publicly, or deliver a presentation, or stand out in an interview. It's those transferrable skills that'll be missed most. Skills best nurtured through creative channels.
What I am talking about, though, goes beyond education to something that can support many industries. More and more companies are looking at different ways they can engage their employees; different methods and techniques to develop their workforce, leadership, ideas for new work streams and innovations. Isn’t that what we can do? As creative people we have the ability to explore, initiate and develop ideas. We have the ability to network and engage with a range of people. So we are becoming the very type of people that businesses need.
Businesses and non-creative companies are finally starting to realise they need the ‘creative-minded' people to enhance their businesses in order to stand out amongst their own potential client lists. Clients who want to be 'wowed' from the off, or will simply look elsewhere.
Its fast becoming the case that an impeccable website and branding package isn't enough anymore. Businesses need the creative think-ers, as much as the creative do-ers. Not that their necessarily incapable by themselves, but if business managers and accountants can offer artists advice on growing our trade, why on earth should it not be the other way around, too?
And while we're on the subject of creative artists, it's not uncommon to see somewhat of a lack of business acumen (we hold our hands up here, at times). Sometimes I wonder that with an industry that continues to shout about pay, money and funding, why we're not learning from business professionals to help achieve our goals. The more of those skills we obtain, the better: we understand how to work a basic business model, we might be able to financially support the work we want to create, in turn we ask for less, learn our worth and the areas we can further our businesses, and get paid adequately for what we are good at. Don't apologise for what you do, and don't accept less than the going rate to do it.
In essence what I am saying is that we need a balance; we can’t continue to create art for the love of art, and businesses need to acknowledge that there is a need for creative-minded people in their workplaces that can really help to improve many areas of their companies.
I think the most successful and harmonious arts companies and non-creative businesses find the balance of knowing and understanding both sides. We all need to be more open to creating opportunities that offer cross-pollination of our skillsets. 'And we need to be encouraging that 'creative business' in young people today.
From our vey first discussion about 'The Dozen' (our creative business project that launched last week), we knew that we wanted to deliver something that would engage young people in the whole process of creating work for performance. It's almost futile in today's market to 'train' in the arts without looking at the processes of doing it yourself. Over the next four months we will be working with 12 young people, not only to create a new piece of theatre, but to equip them with the knowledge to start a business grounded in their own creative ideas.
There's always a long way to go, whatever your business, but it's worth reminding yourself of the question: have we got the balance right?
Read more about 'The Dozen' project here.