How creative are APAC enterprise leaders?

In 2020, business leaders were challenged like never before, and the importance of creativity – collaboration, innovation, problem solving – has only increased as a result.

More than 2,500 enterprise leaders from across the region have participated in the Adobe Creativity Quotient (CQ) test, the IQ test for your creative leadership, examining the five areas of creativity within organisational teams: culture, data, skills, technology and experiences.

The results have provided an interesting view of the current role creativity plays in driving teams and business growth, and identified opportunities for leaders to get ahead of the creativity curve.

Just 14 percent of leaders across APAC were classified as “visionaries” – the pioneers of innovation, who are forging the next frontier of creativity, culture and experiences within their team and across their organisation and industry. Visionaries don’t just shape their own team, they’re recognised as leaders in their industry, bridging art and science in a way that leads to remarkable product, service and experience design for customers and employees alike.

Despite this, APAC leaders as a whole are leaning into an emerging second creative renaissance, with 67 percent of participants classified as “leaders” – those carving new creative possibilities through skills and tools both within and beyond their team and into the work culture.

Different regions have different priorities and areas of expertise when it comes to creativity, so how do they stack up?

Australia and New Zealand leaders engaging through experiences

ANZ has the most room for creative leadership improvement, with just 13 percent of participants classified as visionaries and 60 percent as leaders.

ANZ leaders are strongest in experience, leading APAC with 45 percent excelling in leveraging creative skills and technology to deliver innovative and engaging experiences. Specifically, 58 percent of ANZ enterprise leaders see creativity as a fundamental tool of innovation and evolution and incorporate it into all elements of work.

They are also strong in fostering a creative culture, with 41 percent excelling in this area. When asked when their team feels most creative, 54 percent of ANZ leaders said when there is a problem to be solved. This means that by providing their teams with an environment that celebrates change and encourages a ‘fail fast’ attitude, leaders in Australia and New Zealand are giving their organisations the opportunity to challenge the status quo and unlock new endeavours.

The greatest area of opportunity for ANZ leaders: better fostering and leveraging of creative skills within their teams. Just 22 percent of leads in Australia and New Zealand excel in helping their teams develop creative skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration – the skills that will be crucial in the future of work.

It’s time for ANZ leaders to embrace the golden age of creativity and prioritise the identification and development of these creative, uniquely human skills as we accelerate into a new world of work. Explore ways to upskill your team, and ensure you’re investing – both money and time – into new technology while empowering your team to innovate and iterate without fear of failure.

Indian leaders ahead of the curve with technology

Enterprise leaders in India are leading the region when it comes to creativity, with 15 percent of Adobe CQ participants classified as visionaries and 69 percent as leaders.

Indian leaders are particularly strong in leveraging technology to power their organisations’ creativity and business growth, with 42 percent excelling in this area.

Nearly half of respondents said they are constantly mapping creative skills, processes and frameworks as part of their work culture. And 48 percent of India leaders also say they use technology as a creative tool in their organisation to inspire and augment any creative initiative.

Enterprise leaders in India also use data to drive creativity better than any other region in APAC, with thirty-eight percent using data as a driver of innovation.

What sets Indian leaders apart is the use of data to evaluate their team’s creative work. While most leaders see creative output as a subjective concept, Indian leaders better recognise how to use data to objectively assess it.

Like Australia and New Zealand, the greatest area of growth opportunity for Indian leaders is fostering greater creative skills within their teams. Just 26 percent of leaders in India excel in this. Only 20 percent recognise that new commercial ventures for organisations won’t come through traditional operating models, but through the adoption of entrepreneurial skills.

Like ANZ leaders, Indian leaders need to start better valuing the opportunities that will emerge by powering their teams with creative skills. Being ahead of the curve when it comes to technology adoption also increases the need for more investment in human abilities, as tools like AI and automation make technical skills less of a business differentiator. Leaders can drive this creative upskilling by challenging their teams to push their own boundaries and take on new learning opportunities.

Southeast Asia (SEA) the creative quiet achievers

SEA leaders are fairly consistent across all five areas of assessment in Adobe CQ and they are on par with the rest of the APAC region when it comes to visionaries (14 percent) and leaders (66 percent).

They scored well in implementing innovative and engaging experiences, with 44 percent excelling in combining mindset and toolset to create experiences through empathy and building loyalty through processes that feel organic.

The greatest strength of SEA leaders is the resounding view that creativity isn’t simply the role of the design or creative teams, rather a responsibility of every team.

A greater opportunity for SEA leaders is around creative culture where only 38 percent excelled, the lowest in the region. In particular, teams and organisations need more structure around their approach to creativity, with 20 percent of SEA leaders saying their team doesn’t currently have one, while just 36 percent said creativity is always part of “business-as-usual.”

There exists a disconnect within these SEA organisations when it comes to approaching creativity, and yet a tremendous opportunity to provide more rigour and process to help teams and individuals advance their creative potential.

Providing the environment where everyone feels comfortable and confident to innovate, collaborate and reinvent is critical.

Business growth in 2021 and beyond will require forward-thinking leaders who can embrace creativity to push boundaries and open new pathways to success.