AI-driven creative agility will define those who have “a good recession.” Here’s why.
Written by Nicky Badenoch, Co-Founder, Genie.
In turbulent times, creativity can often get overlooked.
With the UK on the brink of recession, many businesses will be placing innovation on the backburner, choosing instead to focus on the financial and operational ‘nuts and bolts.’
But in my view, this is the wrong approach.
As someone who is lucky enough to work with some of the best creative freelancers in the business, I’ll admit I’m biased. But I’ve also been privy to countless examples of times when creative thinking has proven itself not just a nice to have, but as business critical. And with smart business planning, and the right tools, it doesn’t have to come at a cost.
Turbulent times call for creative thinking
I can see why it might feel counterintuitive to suggest that a recession should be a boom time for new ideas. During a crisis, many businesses adopt a ‘just get through this’ mentality, cutting budgets, downsizing teams, and postponing new projects. The mantra? That now is the time simply to keep your head down.
In actual fact, the opposite should be true.
Of course, a recession will always be a time of heightened risk. But there are opportunities too. Data compiled by McKinsey off the back of the 2008 financial crisis found that companies that prioritised innovation during the downturn went on to significantly outperform their peers during the recovery period that followed. Crises, McKinsey says, can provide “ingredients for disruption from which new business models emerge.”
This means the winners are the businesses who can take advantage of these so-called ingredients by demonstrating their ability to be agile, to experiment with new ideas, and to adapt quickly.
Accessing creative minds
It’s one thing to identify best practice with the benefit of hindsight, but it’s another to put in place the foundations for actually taking advantage of opportunities when they arise.
Looking at talent should be the first step.
This is about accessing the right creative minds, and at the right time. If innovation and creative thinking is at more of a premium than ever, then having the right team in place is paramount. Some brands already recognise the importance of their creative department; Oatly, for instance, has spoken at length about the crucial role its in-house creative team plays in helping the company maintain its competitive edge – and regularly showcases creative excellence as a result.
But for many organisations, the problem seems to be accessing these types of thinkers in the first place.
Currently, many businesses still find it difficult to find and keep hold of their creative talent; a Cannes Lions report found that 55% of creative directors said that securing talent was very or extremely difficult to deliver. This isn’t an entirely new problem; anecdotally, larger organisations have struggled to work out how to retain and stimulate creatives for some time. Prompting many of us to rethink what we want from our jobs, the pandemic hasn’t helped matters on this front, accelerating an already high level of churn. Research from It’s Nice That found that 36% of surveyed creatives had decided to change roles since March 2020.>
Since then, if your business has failed to put proper thought into how you nurture creative talent, you may well be finding yourself going into this recession with a worrying shortage of outside-the-box thinkers.
AI can power creative agility
Where does this leave us?
If businesses are struggling to retain their creative departments – or simply can’t afford to – and creatives themselves have had enough of the full-time 9-5, having a pool of freelance creative talent accessible at the click of a button could be a huge competitive advantage.
Some workplaces are already thinking creatively to assemble their teams in a more flexible manner. For example, Spotify has already gained headlines for its ‘Work From Anywhere’ policy, which offers teams far greater flexibility when it comes to where they work. It’s these types of workplaces, I would argue, that are particularly well-positioned to take advantage of a hybrid structure.
Technology has an important role to play in facilitating this shift.
For instance, sophisticated AI can match the right creative talent to the right task, at the right time, streamlining an otherwise unwieldy search process. No longer reliant on pay-rolled permanent employees, companies can use this type of system to ‘borrow’ creative talent – saving money, while still accessing the type of creative thinking that could decide which businesses emerge from the recession stronger.
This is already a proven model; in 2021, Genie saved hiring companies over 6,500 hours of resource time, with a headline cost saving of around 20%, by making over 13,000 matches for freelance talent against project assignments.
What comes next?
There’s no doubt that there are turbulent times ahead. But I encourage businesses to see a recession as a time of opportunity, as well as risk.
Now is not the time to de-prioritise creativity. Indeed, it will be critical in navigating this moment.
An agile mindset, coupled with a smart application of technology, will stand businesses in good stead to not only survive, but to emerge from this oncoming recession even stronger.