Creativity & Business

In a meeting on campus not long ago, we were talking about creativity in the context of FIT when one of the people present said, “Creativity is rewritten at FIT every day.” That really struck a chord with me–and I think with others in the room–because it is a kind of global statement that rings true throughout the college: in the curricula of all of our schools, in our pedagogy, in the work our students produce every single day.

The statement actually came from Professor Stephan Kanlian, who heads our MPS program in cosmetics and fragrance marketing and management, and I point this out because I think there is a general misconception “out there”– in the world at large–that creativity is limited to artists and designers, musicians and performers. How many times have we heard those derogatory references to “suits”–the grim men and women in the boardroom or back offices who are counting the dollars and cents, immune to the muses of poetry, music or art. But is Bobbi Brown a “suit?” Leslie Blodgett? What about Bill Gates? It’s a terrible cliché and does no justice to the immense creativity involved in any successful enterprise, be it a couture collection, a marketing strategy or a business plan.

Here is a great example: At one of our recent board meetings, four of our business school students–two in FMM, one in AMC, and one in TDM–did a presentation of a business plan they created for opening a Paris branch of a New York City-based retailer. They were the first-place winners of an annual international student competition sponsored by the World Retail Congress. The elements involved were daunting, ranging from the selection of the store to finding a location for it in Paris; adapting the retail concept for the Paris market, developing a business plan–with all of the requisite “suit”-intensive stats: operating costs, rent, taxes, labor costs, profitability–and a marketing plan for the store opening and a five year growth plan. In justifying their Parisian location, they were also required to produce a video, as well as visuals for their presentation at the Congress. Now, we can talk about the rigorous critical thinking that went into this project, but think of the creativity that infused all of that. In the end, our business students apply everything they learn through the lens of their own innate creativity.

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