Creativity in B2B: There's a Way But Is There the Will?

Being creative versus being a creative, and why that matters to Jira-jailed B2B SaaS cultures.

Mike Geraci
September 13, 2023

In the Overthinkers podcast episode on whether Strategy is creative or rational, hosts Shann Biglione and Rachel Mercer agree that Strategy is both. They also agree that scientists are creative, as their work is anchored in a hypothesis generated from the study of available and observable information (a nice way to frame strategy, as well).

Why do you care about this obscure strategy geek reference?

When I posted this nugget on LinkedIn, a bunch of my analytically-minded, show me the kpis/roi attribution spreadsheet jockey friends were stoked. One commented, “…everyone is creative, the context varies. Attaching that title to someone that creates only certain kinds of media just makes my blood boil.”

Yeah, everyone is creative, but not all of us are creatives.

Everyone is funny, but not all of us are comics.

Everyone is empathetic, but not all of us are therapists.

Everyone is intelligent, but not all of us are Einstein.

Everyone is everything. We under- or over-index in specific traits. In communications and commercial media arts/advertising, the “creatives” (noun) are through the roof on the over-index side of the creativity spectrum.

Everyone is analytical, but not all of us are Director of Business Architecture for an enormous multinational software corporation, Steve!

In B-to-B, this disassociation is debilitating. Jon Lombardo of LinkedIn’s B2B Institute unwittingly nailed the problem with his op-ed in AdWeek, titled 'We Need a New Formula for Creativity in B-to-B Advertising.'

B-to-B thinks in formulas. That’s not how creativity works.

The creative process (such that it is) is recursive, not linear. Steps overlap and repeat themselves based on new inputs or insights gained. (Csikszentmihalyi, 2013)

This is why ad agencies exist, or did: the cultivation of a chaos culture in which creative people thrive. It’s permission and encouragement to break, create, and fail.

Permission to fail is the hardest part for B-to-B to get over when every dollar spent has to have an attributable impact on sales. All of this is anchored in humans’ natural desire for order, which is turbo-charged within Jira-powered B-to-B SaaS cultures. Chaos be gone.

Here are a few of the traits of people who measure high on the creativity index, according to psychologist and the author of the notion and book on Flow, called The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

* Creative people have complex personalities.

* Creative individuals have a great deal of physical energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.

* Creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naive at the same time.

* Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and a rooted sense of reality at the other.

* Creative people seem to be both introverted and extroverted.

* Creative people are unafraid to be rebellious and iconoclastic.

* Creative individuals often experience suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.

Would you hire this person?

But the hunger for creativity in B-to-B seems insatiable. It is why LinkedIn’s B2B Institute pushes papers like 'How B2B Businesses Can Make Creativity Their Superpower' , and, Cashing in on Creativity; How Better Ads Deliver Bigger Profits. Creativity content gets engagement. It is why people like Dave Gerhard and Chris Walker have such enthusiastic audiences, there are droves of frustrated marketers eager for a contrarian advocate for interesting.

Another brilliant analytically-minded acquaintance of mine commented that, “…creativity has a process and can be enhanced with some sort of communication between creative types.” Yes, there is a process, but it can’t be broken into steps and then applied to any working group. Taking your team through Sinek’s “Start with Why” framework exercise will get you maybe 75%, but there is an alchemy that occurs within certain personalities--creatives--which will turn it into the unique, concise, and compelling answer you seek.

David Hockney said, “You can teach the craft; the poetry, you can’t teach.”

We can all paint, but not all of us are painters.

Next week we'll have some low barrier steps to take to incorporate some true creativity into your organization. For now, start looking for a freelance copywriter.


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