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|Ecommerce: A New Artform
What creative project do you have in the back of your mind? Writing that
novel? Putting together a bluegrass band? Painting the sunsets over the Rio
Grande? How about starting a business?
When you think of the term creative endeavor, does launching or running a
business come to mind? To most creative people, business is the antithesis of
creativity. Yet slowly, ever so slowly, the nature of business is changing.
The need for innovation in business is gradually overtaking the need for
control as the resource that makes the difference between success and failure.
Really? But isn't business essentially about control? Controlling resources
and controlling people? Yes, but business is also about innovation and
communication, both of which live at the heart of creativity.
There are two reasons why I believe creativity will become increasingly
valued in business. Control is certainly critical in business, both resources
and people need to be managed carefully. But control is easier to teach than
innovation. Given an equal need for both innovation and control, control is
the easier skill or talent to find and implement. Thus innovation rises in
value because it's more difficult to find and utilize effectively.
Are innovation and control equal needs? They certainly haven't been in the
past. Control has been the leading force in business since the beginning of
the industrial age. That age has ended however, and we now live in an
service-based information world of commerce. This means the resource that
needs to be controlled is more likely to be information rather than, say,
coal. Information can be managed easily across electronic wiring and storage
media. That means important work of business will be creating and
disseminating information, and that requires a creative mind.
The other reason I believe creativity will rise in importance in business is
that in our information-based economy, the resources required for business
are fewer and less costly. If you can run a storefront on the Internet that
can reach millions across the globe, you don't need capital to build a store
that sits in a city and reaches thousands. The
juice it takes to make the
Internet company successful is not capital so much as the creative ability to
reach and build a customer base over an infrastructure that's effectively
Napster was a wonderful example of this. A teenager was able to create a
service that was quickly utilized by millions upon millions of users. Of
course Napster had a glaring flaw: the company was trading in products
created by others, and trading without the consent of those who produced the
products. But the heart of the matter is that someone without substantial
resources could build a highly-used, well-recognized brand out of little more
than a creative idea. Using the same infrastructure, surely someone will come
up with another intriguing idea that will capture our imagination and a big
audience, and it will probably happen soon. And the next wave of creative
Internet entrepreneurs will have learned from the Internet crash and its
The Internet isn't dead. It's just stumbling a bit while taking its toddler
steps. Internet start-up ideas will continue to attract creative people,
simply because the free infrastructure invites innovation and resists
control. Control is the deathword to creativity. Creative people have shunned
business for that reason alone. Yet in a world where creativity and
innovation become the critical elements for success, you bet creative people
will begin to see commerce as an avenue of expression.
During the high days of Internet exuberance, I used this column to make the
claim that business will be the creative medium of the early 21st century. I
still believe it's true, simply because the basic elements still exist a
encourage a creative approach to business. The resources to support a new
company do not require control so much as creative manipulation. Given this
free and open canvas, creative people will rush in, despite the lingering
notion that business is somehow anti-creative.
About the Author
Rob Spiegel is the author of Net Strategy (Dearborn) and the upcoming
Shoestring Entrepreneur's Guide to Internet Start-ups (St. Martin's Press).
You can reach Rob at email@example.com