There’s a lot of negativity around about the Brexit vote, it would be fair to say few in the creative industries voted out. I wanted to stay in. Now they are all complaining like it’s the end of the world.

From the film and TV industry to design, digital, advertising, architecture, fashion, product design, music, gaming and many other creative industries, the UK creative economy is the second biggest economy we have after financial and growing. But if we stand still our exit from the EU could see it decline.

When did we ever stand still?

The creative industries accounted for 5.2% of the UK economy, worth £84.1billion – about £10m an hour – and employs almost 1.8 million people (according to a recent report by the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport).

London is seen as one of the creative capitals of the world and we come in the top 5 of most creative disciples. But what helps make us so creative is the fact we also attract creative talent from around the world, not just from Europe. Our creative industries are very diverse.

Even after our departure from Europe, the UK will need to maintain and grow this economy and to do so we’ll need to keep attracting the best creative talent. Not just from the usual places but also from places like China, India and South America.

But we are also a nation of entrepreneurs and start-ups are at a record level, the UK is one of the best places in Europe to start a business, with fewer restrictions and more cash, and once out of Europe’s restrictions and bureaucracy it may be even easier.

Our naturally inventive nature combined with our entrepreneurial approach means that businesses within the creative economy will adapt and redefine to be able to compete globally.

But what about non-creative businesses?

So why are more traditional non-creative businesses failing than ever before?

Even without Brexit, it has never been tougher for traditional businesses. Competition from new digital-based businesses (look how Amazon has wiped out book shops) and new model companies (Uber, AirBnB) are killing off old models.

Changing consumer habits and behaviour, fuelled by technology and new values (especially ethics) are making many brands irrelevant. And a fundamental desire to buy cheaper is challenging older models of businesses that have high running costs and are less efficient. HMV employed thousands before it failed, yet Apple’s iTunes business employs a fraction of that.

The complaint of some Brexit voters was “foreigners are taking our jobs”, well traditional companies could also be heard to say, “new businesses models are taking our customers.” Times move on and those that are agile and adapt survive, the dinosaurs become extinct.

Sadly a lot of established companies are too slow to see the challenges and adapt. Restricted by cultures lacking in any innovation and too much bureaucracy and complacency, that lack any agility – an essential element needed to survive these days.

The death of Kodak… along came the iPhone

Look at how Kodak’s consumer division has collapsed! At one time every household had a Kodak camera, over 100m Instamatics were made and then along came the iPhone and the consumers found a better way to take snaps. While Kodak was trying to make a better, cheaper camera, companies like Apple were making a better way to take photos that fitted new consumer behaviour, and a better business too.

Companies like the BHS’ of this world are failing fast. Even without Green’s unacceptable capitalist approach, BHS would probably have failed anyway, it was a dinosaur of retail fashion. Debenham’s and M&S will probably be next unless they can reinvent itself, which given the profile of their boardroom is unlikely.

Globally 52% of the top Fortune 500 have vanished in the last 14 years (88% in the last 50 years). And more established companies have failed in the last ten years than at any other time in history – from Woolworths to HMV. Even the world’s oldest company, Kongo Gumi, a Japanese house and temple builder, went bust after 1400 years.

Blockbusters, once the world’s biggest video and CD retail store didn’t see the download coming. And who’d thought what started as a small company hiring out DVDs by post, Netflix, would become the world’s biggest TV channel.

And the real shocker is that it is all happening so fast. Companies can go from local to global in a year. They can also fail fast, look at Zynga, founded in 2007 and the maker of Farmville, it was once the biggest game on Facebook (they parted company in 2012). But the company has failed to recreate the same success in its transition to mobile. According to Wall Street 24/7, it is a company destined to failure. “Zynga can be considered the single greatest social media failure among recent IPOs. The leading provider of games on Facebook has been unable to match the success of Farmville, its first hit.

But even the new kids on the block can’t get companies, the expected life of a successful business use to be 75 years, now it’s just 15. It’s just as easy to loose the crown you stole to a new player.

The way forward for all businesses is to keep reinventing, reimagining and challenging the status quo. With the rapid speed of change companies can no longer wait until things start to go wrong before they try to take evasive action, it’s too late by then.

It’s no longer about just keeping up but keeping ahead. And to do that you need to embrace creative innovative thinkers.

Dyslexia T-shirt crop

Why every boardroom should hire a dyslexic.

“Who in your company challenges you or your business model? Who is prepared to say we are failing when everyone else is deluding themselves that the declining performance of the business is just a temporary thing? Who will stand up and say there’s a competitor out there that is 1.1000th the size of us but will probably take 10% of our business?”

Those were the words of a management guru at a recent conference I attended. As he spoke I looked at the C-suites in the audience and by the way, they nodded their heads, it was obvious few had anyone in their business who were bold and honest enough to help them see the reality of where their business was going. Sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes, someone to see things differently.

The problem of many corporate cultures is they prefer denial to change. They try to maintain the status quo rather than face the future and when the sales decline they just hack away at the business to reduce cost.

Boards are usually made up of safe, highly responsible people who tend to focus on the numbers. It’s not a place for mavericks, innovators and those that like to challenge.

Which is why brands like M&S aren’t going anywhere. Too safe, too boring and too risk averse. Sorry guys but the accountants don’t have the answer.

The only way to survive is to reimagine, reinvent and reframe your business. And that’s something you can’t do with an afternoon brainstorm.

By comparison look at some of the most successful companies around – Apple, Microsoft, Dyson, Virgin and Disney – all founded by dyslexics. All challenge brands, risk taking, but also all very consumer centric. I really doubt the board of M&S have every met their customer, let along understand them.

Is it a coincidence that so many creative, innovators, inventors and top businesses people are dyslexic? No. Dyslexics think different, they can see opportunities others can’t, they think in a more dimensional way and are able to join the dots in new ways. It is most simply put by this thought, “Hold up a dice and the most you can see is 3 sides. If you are dyslexic you can see all six.”

Top management consultants like Tom Peters advocated that all boardrooms should have a maverick in to challenge the rest of the board. In today’s fast-moving, highly competitive world you need a creative thinker, and they don’t come smarter than dyslexics.

I don’t just say that because I am one, or that half my staff are dyslexic, as a businessman I know the value of having people around me who think different. After all, who wouldn’t want to tap into a mind that thinks like Gates, Branson, Jobs or Einstein?



Chris Arnold is a former director of Saatchi & Saatchi and founder of Creative Orchestra Advertising and The Garage, a disruptive innovation consultancy.

You can email him at vichris@me.com



Creative Economy www.thecreativeindustries.co.uk

Think Different – The Garage www.co-garage.com