Dyanis de Jesús is a creative strategy and innovation consultant from Puerto Rico. An expert on Puerto Rico’s creative economy, Dyanis has a design consulting practice that supports companies by applying design methods to business challenges. BĀSED invited her to share her perspective on Puerto Rico’s budding creative economy in an opinion essay, as well as her top picks for local food, music, fashion, and design.
“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein, Saturday Evening Post Interview, 1929
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Creativity has become the most important resource of the 21st century. In a world primed for reinvention, and undergoing large-scale structural change, imagination is more important than knowledge, as Einstein once said. In Puerto Rico, the opportunity to practice applied creativity, imagination and innovation grows when we prioritize and value local creative talent.
Though the term “innovation” has been widely adopted across professional industries, society still misunderstands how innovation and creativity work hand in hand. Companies commonly espouse narratives of innovation without really understanding how to implement processes that inspire innovative thinking. The terms “innovation” and “creativity” are often conflated and used interchangeably. Creativity is an expansive term, but for the purposes of this article, I am referring to the type of applied creativity that stems primarily from the work of creative professionals and taking a look at how we can begin to leverage creativity for innovation and business success in Puerto Rico.
“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” – Edward De Bono, Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas, 1993
The first step is to understand creativity and innovation conceptually, and how they relate to one another. Creativity and innovation are two parts of an integrated process. In practical terms, creativity is defined as the use of imagination and its capacity to generate original ideas, as perceived by author and creative thinking expert Edward de Bono, creator of the term “lateral thinking.” Lateral thinking describes the process of considering and solving problems via reasoning that is not immediately obvious, thereby generating new insight. Innovation, on the other hand, is the application or use of a new or improved product or process (or some combination of the two) that differs significantly from previous versions (Oslo Manual, 2018).
Innovative products or processes are therefore the direct result of applied creativity, and can take many forms in business. At best, they influence almost every aspect of an enterprise for the better; from customer service, to sales and marketing, and beyond. Creativity also possesses an inherent layer of humanity, a trait gaining greater traction in the business world as consumer mindsets shift toward seeking more meaningful connections. That’s why creative thinking is a requirement for today’s most successful and innovative businesses, as a driving force for small and medium enterprises that seek to disrupt the status quo.
If businesses rely primarily on technological advancements, or their research and development departments to foster innovation, then they need to rethink how creativity is prioritized within their organizations. Global leaders are already doing this. PepsiCo. and Zappos, for example, have added new creative positions at their executive levels, such as “Design Executive Officer” (DEO), and “Chief Experience Officer” (CXO).
We’ve reached a point where organizations see creativity as a primary competitive advantage. The work of creative professionals has also captured the attention of leading companies in Silicon Valley. In the last decade, over 27 enterprises co-founded by designers have been acquired by Google, Facebook, Adobe, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Yahoo, Accenture, Capital One, BBVA, and McKinsey & Company, according to the 2016 “Design in Tech Report.” Creative-led businesses are attracting larger corporations and investors, because of their capacity to generate millions of dollars in revenue.
Once we understand the value of creativity and the role it plays in sparking innovation, the next step is to recognize that in order to integrate creative processes into an enterprise or start-up, we must foster an environment in which novel ideas can emerge and thrive. This becomes possible when organizations prioritize the culture and creativity of their teams and environment. Innovation stems from rich creative settings and, most importantly, from creative talent. There can be no innovation in the absence of innovators. The acquisition, development, and retention of creative capital, therefore, plays a key role in enabling the flow of innovative ideas. And if that talent is located in an inspiring and culturally rich setting, all the better; the added bonus is that it will feed their creativity.
The time has therefore come for a fresh look at the wealth of creativity in Puerto Rico. As an island well-known for its cultural vibrancy, Puerto Rico’s creative ecosystem shapes its inhabitants and how we live. The richness of Puerto Rico’s human resources and creative capital continue to shape our future, even beyond the scope of geography. I’m talking about the creative talent that’s already innovating within our communities, our movements, our venues, our shops, our gastronomy, and of course, our local industries, businesses and brands.
I am often amazed by the creative products, services, and initiatives originating from the island, and was able to validate the magnitude of this output in a recent study I authored for the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust and the Trade and Export Company, in the publication Puerto Rico Creativo ‘18. The book features creative entrepreneurs innovating in sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, retail, e-commerce and tourism. These entrepreneurs are advancing a new kind of prosperity that considers more than just economic development, but also social and environmental impact, at a time when we need them most. The work of these entrepreneurs is paradigmatic of the use of applied creativity to generate new resources, in a world that so desperately needs them. I am honoring the critical role of creatives right now through initiatives like FREE Puerto Rico, a community that I co-founded to support local creative freelancers and elevate their practices as we enter a time of great transformation in the way that we work.
Our creative professionals have the ability to become part of multidisciplinary teams across sectors; 10 years ago that kind of collaboration was notably rare. And as technology and digitization accelerate, there is a renewed emphasis on creatives’ hard skills. I therefore urge anyone in the entrepreneurial or business spaces to get to know Puerto Rico’s creative talent better, and to understand how creatives are shaping and evolving our culture and industries every single day, transforming Puerto Rico into a better place, even in the face of adversity. In Puerto Rico, our creative and cultural activity is rich and diverse, just like the talent of our people. In order to continue reimagining sustainable growth, and moving our country, and our world, forward, we must center creative talent in the way we do business on the island.
Dyanis de Jesús is a creative consultant and founder of Prototipo, a firm that helps businesses and brands with strategies that are culturally relevant and socially impactful, leading to innovation and growth. For the last decade she has been an advocate of the creative industries in Puerto Rico via research, education, and multi-sector collaborations. She is the author of “Puerto Rico Creativo” for the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust and the Trade and Export Company, and prior to that was the co-author of “Orange Economy: Innovations and Trends of the Creative Industries in Latin America and the Caribbean” for the InterAmerican Development Bank. Through her work, she aims to influence the application of creativity to develop innovation in enterprises, economic development in countries, and to spur social, cultural and environmental impact.
With two decades of experience at the intersection of culture, creativity and commerce, Dyanis has held leadership positions in strategy, business development, and the creative services of advertising and communications in major cities such as Chicago, New York and Milan, Italy. She has a strong commitment to social impact and a specialization in sustainability and design management from Pratt Institute in NYC, where she continues to be a professor and thesis advisor for the Arts, Cultural and Design Management program. She now lives and works between San Juan, Puerto Rico and San Francisco, California. WearePrototipo.com Contact: Dyanis@gmail.com
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