I’ve always hated the term Brexit. But I’m not a fan of portmanteau words in general. You can keep your ‘infomercials’, ‘edutainment’ and ‘dramedies’. But linguistic foibles aside, I also hate the idea of Brexit. I hate that it stands for isolationism, seperatism and a distrust of others. Because these are the main ingredients in the poisonous potion that kills creativity.

And that puts Britain at a disadvantage. Because few business leaders will disagree with the fact that creativity is vital for the future success of their company.

We’ve voted to become a less fertile soil for creative ideas

By voting to limit ourselves to this small island, we’ve voted to become a less fertile soil for creative ideas. That breaks my heart. We’re not just breaking away from Europe, we’re breaking away from creative opportunities.

It’s not just a Brexit, it’s a Crexit.

British business will now have to try harder to stay relevant. And that’s going to take conscious effort to fight against the natural stagnation that will happen when the free flow of humans and ideas are restricted.

Small-mindedness leads to small thinking

A distrust of others stems from personal insecurity

Much of what led to the Brexit vote was a fear of immigrants and refugees flooding our nation and stealing our jobs. These foreigners would apparently dilute what it means to be British. Personally, looking at Britain’s international history, I think this is sheer hypocrisy and double-standardness. And is – from my understanding of the national character – decidedly un-British.

A distrust of others stems from personal insecurity. Bullies put others down to elevate themselves. People who are stressed and unhappy lash out at others to spread their misery. It’s crappy stuff but it’s part of human nature, sadly.

Otherism – or egocentrism, if you prefer – shuts down outside influence. It’s the very definition of being closed-minded. That results in fewer collisions of information, points of view and approaches. And, naturally, less diverse, interesting, creative thinking.

The talent drain has started

The people who tend to hang around in a sinking ship are the ones who are most afraid of the big blue unknown. The rats leave. As do the most talented individuals. I’ve seen it in several businesses I’ve worked in. If the environment isn’t a fertile and supportive one, the really talented folk don’t hang around that long. The long-termers tend to be more conservative and institutionalised. They’ve found a comfortable environment where they know their place, understand what they’re doing and don’t want to rock the boat.

The most talented, visionary people are always open to new opportunities

The most talented, visionary people are always open to new opportunities. They like to be challenged. They’re excited by opportunities. They enjoy the feeling of achieving something new. If they don’t get that from their job, they’ll go elsewhere.

The UK has some amazing talent. These individuals help to keep the country at the forefront of many industries. But these individuals can only do that if they’ve got an environment that helps them thrive. There’s a very good chance these people could become stifled or move on to another more welcoming environment if the UK becomes less welcoming and supportive. These are both disastrous for the future of Britain.

A few weeks ago the EU Baroque Orchestra announced that it would be moving from their Oxfordshire home to Antwerp. And all because of Brexit. They said that restrictions on the free movement of people would make the life of a musician even harder. Their general manager, Emma Wilkinson, went on to say: “I do worry that European orchestras will not be inviting talented British musicians to work with them. It will just be too bureaucratically difficult.”

Right now foreign banks are planning their exodus from Canary Wharf and the City. Other foreign companies that have used the UK as their European base are making similar plans. And talented foreign individuals – who the government has so far failed to provide any commitment to – will be keeping their eyes open for other opportunities.

Ideas don’t respect borders

It’s not just about people. Ideas need the right conditions to thrive as well. If they don’t have that, they’ll wither. Or be relocated to a more welcoming and nourishing environment.

Ideas need the right conditions to thrive

The internet has created a world with few borders (we’re looking at you North Korea). When you publish a site, it can be reached by billions of people across every time zone. People gather in online communities based on interests rather than geographical proximity. I don’t believe anyone in Britain restricts their web browsing to sites that end in .co.uk. Because why would you restrict yourself when you live in a world of global information? That’s a beautiful and powerful thing.

If Brexit makes it harder for me to collaborate internationally (just yesterday I collaborated with people in San Francisco, Brisbane and Munich) then it has potential to shut down opportunities for my British-based business and cause my collaborators to deal with someone easier.

A few things British companies can do to address the potential threats of our new political situationClick To Tweet

Don’t just wait and see

I’ve heard numerous business people saying they just want to hold off and see what happens with Brexit. I think that’s the wisdom of a fool. It’s passive and – like the proverbial frog in a pot of water – you may never take the action you need to survive.

There are numerous factors that can affect the creative output and innovativeness of organisations. So when one of these factors – the movement of diverse talent – is hobbled, you need to focus on some other factors to mitigate any potential damage. So here are a few things British companies can do to address the potential threats of our new political situation.

  • Create a culture that welcomes otherness

    It’s not just about having the most talented individuals, it’s about creating an environment where they can think effectively and release their full potential. You don’t do that if you’re coercing them to do things a specific way because “that’s the way we do things around here”. If you successfully create a company culture that allows for different approaches and points-of-view, you’ll also unlock the abilities hidden in other employees that you never knew existed. And you’ll get insights and ideas you never thought possible.

  • Look after your talent

    Particularly if you have foreign employees. Commit to making the extra effort and covering the cost of keeping them. If you show your faith in them, they’ll show their faith in you. But understand what actually motivates the most talented people. It’s not money (although financially exploiting them will almost certainly motivate them to leave). It’s more likely to be the satisfaction of feeling involved, achieving things and being credited for their work. People tend to stay if they’re getting what they need from an organisation, emotionally as well as financially. Make that part of your corporate culture and it will pay dividends.

  • Invest in fresh ideas

    You need to invest in the future of your business. And I use the word ‘invest’ very consciously here. The standard way that investment funds work is by putting most of your capital into low risk/low return shares – and a smaller amount into high risk/high return ones. That means most of your money is pretty secure. But that smaller portion could go stratospheric. No organisation knows what the future holds for them, so the best way to prepare for it is to explore the unknown and have an ongoing commitment to trying out some ‘high risk/high return’ activities. They may not succeed – but you’ve not bet the business on them. If they fail, you’ll learn. If they succeed, you’ll improve your business. So set aside a portion of your budgets to try new approaches. That will give you a huge advantage against everyone else in your industry – wherever they are in the world.

Whether or not I agree with Brexit (I think I’ve made my position clear by now) I know that the most important thing is for us to accept the situation and move forward as a nation. I believe that any time of change is a time of great opportunity. We just need to remember that it’s also a time of change – and therefore opportunity – for the rest of the world in terms of their relationship with the UK. It will be creative thinking and flexibility of thought that will give us the best chance of winning from Brexit.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves. Because it’s no longer business as usual.

It will be creative thinking and flexibility of thought that will give us the best chance of winning from BrexitClick To Tweet

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I've always hated the term Brexit. But I'm not a fan of portmanteau words in general. You can keep your 'infomercials', 'edutainment' and 'dramedies'. But linguistic foibles aside, I also hate the idea of Brexit. I hate that it stands for isolationism, seperatism and a distrust of others. Because...
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Dave Birss
Founder and Editor at OpenForIdeas.org
Dave is obsessed with creativity. He's been a musician, illustrator, stand-up comedian, poet, radio DJ, television presenter and advertising creative director. He also wrote A User Guide to the Creative Mind.
Now he runs Open for Ideas and helps individuals and companies become more creative.
You can find him speaking at conferences all over the world. And sharing his thinking in boardrooms, universities and dimly-lit pubs.