FROM THE BULL | Over the years I have met a lot of people who describe themselves as creatives. It’s a romantic notion but my first question is usually – a creative what? The ones I have come across are a curious group with an edgy dress sense and a common language that includes words that I don’t really understand. They’re well read, blog a lot, and can quote Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell verbatim. They’re very cool and are always talking about the amazing work they’re doing.

The problem is that many of them are near-broke because what they do isn’t considered very valuable in the market-place. They’re fun to be around but nobody wants to pay (much) for what they’re offering. What they don’t understand is that real value is created by providing deep level insights that shake up thinking and force positive market changes that benefit a large audience. It’s not about quoting someone else’s ideas from a book or producing pretty work. What I’m talking about is pragmatic creativity and that is highly prized. It’s also not common.

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds, understood this perfectly.  He knew creativity was just part of the game, not the whole game. He took a low-rent business like hamburgers and fries and conceived a master plan that would eventually take it to all four corners of the globe. He did this by applying the principles of mass production, standardisation, labour specialisation and franchising to the food services industry. None of this stuff was sexy but it was highly creative. The legacies of these principles are still visible (56 years later) in virtually every multi-store fast food business today.

Ray Kroc is universally recognised as a master entrepreneur. He was also hugely creative. Better than that he was able to transform his creative ideas into an executable action plan to fill and exploit a latent need in the market-place. He was then relentless in the implementation of the plan. It worked – nowadays, McDonalds has in excess of 31,000 restaurants worldwide.

Whether you consider yourself a creative or not, the same business principles apply if you want to be successful. Importantly, it doesn’t matter what you look like, dress like or who you hang out with. Nor does it matter if you are on the A List, D List or no list at all. Any advantages you think these things may provide you with are only temporary and can quickly unravel if you cannot produce the goods consistently.

The thing that matters most is the quality of the output you deliver and whether it is sufficiently valuable in the market-place. This is a bedrock foundation for success that is enduring and much harder to shift. Everything else can get blown away in a light breeze.

There are some great creatives out there but I doubt they describe themselves in these terms. More likely they’ll talk about how they solve problems in their own businesses and for their clients. They’re creative but in very pragmatic ways that make a real difference.

The behaviour of the successful ones might even mimic Ray Kroc’s profound words, “creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.”

Modern Art Image Via Design Milk
Editors Note: We don’t recommend McDonalds for eating