Can A Business Be Too Creative?

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Can A Business Be Too Creative?

Businesses want people to be creative and unique in order to help them be different and distinctive. But is that always the best approach? Viewers of Katy Perry’s halftime show at the 2015 Super Bowl probably remember how the “Left Shark” did his own thing apart from the other dancers. It got the 5 Friends thinking about this idea: Is there ever a time when being creative and different hurts more than helps?


From Joe Calloway:joe-calloway-headshot

You could make the case that the Left Shark going “off script” with his (her?) creative renegade dance steps actually got the whole halftime show an amazing amount of post-performance publicity. It may have taken attention away from Katy Perry, but it certainly sparked a few days of interest and conversation that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, so maybe it ultimately benefited Katy Perry.

If being creative and different serves the purpose of attracting attention to a value producing endeavor – then I vote yes. On Facebook our friend Toni Newman has posted dozens of brilliantly creative ways that organizations market and communicate in order to get their messages above the fray of sameness and mediocrity.

On the other hand, I think that in business people sometimes get so carried away with the idea of being “different” that they lose site of what the ultimate mission of creating value. They simply make noise.

Being creative and different for its own sake can be a grand and glorious thing. I thought the Left Shark dancer was a hoot. But, a renegade “ creative” violinist in a symphony could destroy the experience for everyone.

So I say be creative, be different. Don’t be stupid.


Joe Calloway helps great companies get even better.


From Larry Winget:larry-winget-headshot

I don’t even remember the sharks at the 2015 Halftime Show with Katy Perry. Why? I was watching Katy Perry: meaning a couple of things, but in this context it means that some are focused on the star and not the creative distractions. In your business, some of your customers just want your product or your service to be the star and all of that creative stuff is nothing but a distraction. Often, businesses sacrifice the product or service trying to be overly creative. Don’t.

Along the same lines, this past week at the ACM Awards, Florida Georgia Line’s performance was so full of pyrotechnics that it was a distraction. (Probably, covering up what I consider to be a lack of talent.) How many businesses don’t have any substance but are covering that fact up with creative distractions? Too many.

On another note, sometimes creativity runs amok and the entire message is lost. Political Correctness, business jargon and marketing-speak are all fancy ways of cluttering up a message. To prove that, I said “marketing-speak.”

My lessons here: Creativity is good unless it distracts. Creativity can’t cover up a lack of talent forever. Creativity can clutter up your message.


Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development©, is a six-time NYT/WSJ bestselling author, social commentator and appears regularly on many national television news shows. To find out more, go to


From Mark Sanborn:Mark Sanborn headshot(2)

“Jump the shark” describes an implausible plot construct (thanks to Fonzie water skiing over a shark in Happy Days). I doubt “dance the shark” will catch on, but the question of when to be different is a good one.

One way to judge is to ask if the difference is valued. We want to grow our value proposition for customers and we can’t do that doing what we and others have always done.

Another question: is the difference valued by the team? If the deviation from script makes others look bad and negatively affects their performance, then it isn’t such a good thing. Different has risks in a team performance.

And what if the left Shark had tried something different and it had bombed? Consider the response of, “Wow, that was stupid!” There are few guarantees that what you do differently will be well received, and we mostly hear about the spectacular success, but less about the colossal failures.

In the final analysis, deciding to be different is a judgement call with no assurances. But that call needs to take into consideration everyone who is affected by it, not just what the performer wants to do.


Mark Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker and bestselling author of books including, The Fred Factor. For more information and free resources, visit


From Randy Pennington:randy-pennington-headshot

Being creative and different is rarely a good idea in three situations:

  1. There are clear safety guidelines. I don’t want nuclear reactor operators to be proactively creative. Likewise, I would rather my surgeon be boring and good rather than creative and different.
  2. There are clear legal guidelines. Enron got creative with how it handled accounting, and that didn’t work for them.
  3. There is no value to be added. There is a fine line between being creative and being weird or distracting. That line is crossed on a regular basis.

And, there are definite exceptions to all three.

The U.S. Marines – a highly disciplined and regimented organization – live by the motto of Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. I hope nuclear reactor operators and my surgeon adopt that same principle in the face of a crisis. And, don’t we all secretly want our CPA to be creative enough to secure a deduction without triggering an audit?

Which leaves the “Left Shark.” There are times when weird and distracting morph into remarkable and fun. It was a risk that worked. Not all of them do. To paraphrase an old saying, “Some days you eat the shark, and some days the shark eats you.”


Randy Pennington helps leaders deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To find out more, go to:


From Scott McKain:scott-mckain-headshot

There are times you need to just do your job.

At the risk of sounding like Clint Eastwood telling kids to “get off my lawn,” I wonder if our age of rampant individualism has reached the point where many believe they are entitled to do whatever they want, whenever they want – and without consequences.

Discretion is about understanding when it’s appropriate to go off script – and maturity is having the personal discipline to back up that knowledge with action.

I was recently on a program with another speaker – not one of the “Five Friends” – who dramatically exceeded his prescribed time limit. Like “Left Shark,” he was enthralled with his performance – joyously reveling in the attention of the audience.

The problem is that he threw the rest of the program out of kilter. Lunch was served cold, because the group was late. Several other presenters had to tighten up their presentations – upon which they had labored extensively – because the “freewheeling” speaker didn’t understand the ripple effect of his “creativity.”

Innovation is an important element in creating distinction. Yet, your individuality needs to be respectful of the work of others, as well.

Sometimes, you just need to do your damn job.


Scott McKain teaches how organizations and individual professionals can create distinction in their marketplace, and deliver the “Ultimate Customer Experience ®.” For more information, visit


About the Author:

Randy Pennington

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author and a leading authority on helping organizations deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To learn more or to hire Randy for your next meeting, visit or call 972-980-9857.