Creativity In Business, Is It Really Needed?
by Brad Hines 4-22-14 3:05 pm
Creativity in business is not a nice skill to have, it is outright an imperative. Creativity is an often hard to define concept, one that evokes thoughts of "trendy" people, black t-shirts and "uber-cool" vibe. While creativity can certainly related to "artsy" things, the late Steve Jobs put it best–and I am paraphrasing– when he said that creativity is nothing more than putting two different things together from unrelated areas.
There are two main kinds of creativity in business, the "artsy" and the "problem solving". They merge too.
In my personal career as a serial entrepreneur, and a business man where I have been involved in product inception, writing, selling, marketing, teaching, designing, consulting and everything in between; I know of few instances when creativity has not helped. Creativity has certainly helped me in business in the more traditional connotations of the word, like when designing products, writing, making greeting cards etc. But as well, creativity has helped me in the lesser connoted sense of the word. I call it the "make it happen" creativity. This is when creativity is not in the realm of art or design, but in the realm of problem-solving. As a example, when I was a teenager starting my coin-op vending business, I didn't have the money to write up a legal agreement. This was before the RocketLawyer and LegalZoom.com's of the world mind you. Being on a shoestring and unable to afford a lawyer to draft an agreement, I called a competitor and simply asked for a copy of their legal agreement. I got it. I then essentially re-wrote mine from theirs as applied.
Depending on the nature of your industry, if you don't have that kind of problem solving creativity, it will be at your peril. As a marketer, I am not impressed with 5 and 6 figure ad budgets, I am impressed with entrepreneurs who can command that caliber of effective marketing, for no money. That happens from an equation that requires creativity, there is an industry based around this in PR and Guerilla marketing, and now social media marketing as well. As a young college senior about a decade ago, I had no PR team for YumDomains.com, I had never even written a press release. I wrote one up and paid special attention to the wording, and differentiating it from other headlines. It was on six figure sales in the domain industry. I sent it to 30 news outlets. Two weeks later me and YumDomains.com were quoted on the front page of the USA Today. When people asked how I did that, I would tell them matter-of-factly "I was sitting on my couch eating Cherrios®, and I decided to mail some media outlets a pitch". Creativity in the sheerest sense, is to make something from nothing.
Below left is an example of creative problem solving born from when a recent client was complaining that Instagram didn't allow for posting to Linkedin. Creativity often goes hand in hand with refusing to accept something is not possible. I refused to believe there wasn't a way to automatically post Instagram photos to Linkedin, alas, I found it:
If you can pardon the circuitousness of the observation, remember as entrepreneurs, you can't make anything,
until you do something. That type of success is where creativity dovestails with action. There is a creativity in most acts by entrepreneurs inherently. Motions cause a reaction, and the lack of creativity is when you fail to make anything at all. So it goes that creative can be vaguely defined in this way in the philosophical sense too.
My work lately has had me spending lots of time doing mundane tasks: checking e-mail, checking accounts, research, legal and accounting stuff, etc. Well there is a kind of creativity in the fact that when I went to get a virtual assistant to alleviate some of my work load, I looked outside the U.S. I have now secured one from the Philippines for less than $5 an hour, who is more than competent, an speaks English.
So my observation over the years, is that entrepreneurs and small businesses alike all need to assess their own creative skills, where they lie, and decide what kind of creativity their business needs, and how they can accomplish it (ironically this takes creativity).
Even myself, as a "solopreneur", I literally study creativity in my spare time, and how to accomplish it. We all need to know how to put ourselves in a theta state when our work calls for it. By theta, I am referring to the slower brain wave cycle state that neurologist recognize humans are in when in a dreamy (or even slightly alcoholically buzzed state) where they can be most creative. Please see my piece on Theta Brain Waves here: Fostering Creativity With Theta Brain Waves. Also seemingly counter-intuitivive, is the fact that play helps foster creativity. So does lots of reading in unrelated subject matter, for disparate information is at the heart of interesting solutions–so was Steve Jobs' point.