The Creative Advantage

My colleague Keith Evans, MD of CidaCo, has written some thoughts on the potential contribution of the creative sector in Leeds.  It’s the result of a series of meetings and discussions he’s been having with strategic players in the city, often stimulated by the recent publication of the Leeds Growth Strategy.   This Strategy identifies the creative and digital sector as having a signficant contribution to Leeds, not only in terms of quality of life and city appeal but also in terms of innovative capacity and economic growth.  The quality of cultural participation in the city is remarkable, from activities in the established arts through to the creative and innovative contribution of such events as Playful Leeds (see Twitter @culturevultures), the Leeds Salon (www.leedssalon.org.uk) and the remarkable @DukeStudios.  European research indicates that a critical capacity of the creative sector is to impact through innovation on all other sectors, whilst recent research from IULM in Milan indicates that cultural participation is a key indicator of a city’s or country’s capacity for innovation – for example, in Sweden, consistently top of the international league for most innovative country, over 93% of the population engage in cultural participation……… Keith will be writing more on this but here’s his first chapter:

If there is one thing that the wider business community is united upon, it is the fact that 2012 will be a deeply uncertain and difficult year.

Low confidence, weak domestic demand, limited credit/investment, Euro-uncertainty, government austerity and a lack of policy leadership are all factors which are creating the perfect economic storm. Some positives do exist. Inflation is predicted to start falling, interest rates remain low and labour costs are set to reduce still further.

Sitting below this macro-economic landscape are a number of ‘behavioural’ trends which may well help set the economic temperature for some years to come. A growing awareness amongst consumers of the implications of environmental change, a general desire for a new brand of capitalism and an increasing awareness of the value of the aesthetic/experience in their daily lives. People want things to look, feel, taste, smell, sound exceptional but are increasingly inclined to look to pay less for that intangible value.

This is therefore, an environment where business has to self help, self direct. It is an environment where collaboration and shared resources are the order of the day and where embracing risk, exploring our own creativity and establishing an eco-system where innovation can flourish are essential if we are to maintain our current strengths, but in the near future, build and maximise new ones.

If sharing assets, developing a better brand of commerce and nurturing ideas is to be the answer to future growth, then a fresh approach to customer value, the role of civic governance and stronger business networks appear to be essential.

Roughly translated, this means that:

  • service and product providers need to maintain the utmost attention on customer needs:  the quality, experience, perceived value and aftercare – creating loyal communities that have an emotional connection, not just a financial one
  • A strategic relationship needs to be set up between business and  civic leaders that establishes a joint responsibility to deliver – one that allows the local authority to enable activity and inspires business to act
  • We need to create a culture where business accepts its responsibility to invest in talent, embraces change and looks for opportunities to collaborate

These are valuable characteristics which many in the creative and cultural sector demonstrate on a daily basis. With high values, an unerring commitment to customer satisfaction and a belief in collaboration delivering superb performance, the creative community of Leeds can play a vital role in fostering a new business environment.   

Keith Evans, Managing Director, CidaCo – 0113 373 1754 – keith@cida.org

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