Updated: Jun 28
Today, there is nothing more crucial for growing your business than creativity. No matter your size, you inevitably operate in a highly competitive, rapidly evolving market. No one is immune, and the financial resources needed to outspend your competition are a finite resource. That is what makes creativity crucial. It is what generates big ideas, challenges thinking at every level of the organization, and engages new customers. While creativity is commonly seen as the realm of product innovation and marketing, it works most effectively when it is instilled into the culture of the organization itself. There are many ways to amplify creativity. Here are the ten most readily activated:
Reward Creativity, Not Output: When you focus on creating one perfect thing, you limit your output, and stifle creativity. Creative actions happen when the pressure is off, and we are free to explore. While productivity-driven organizations might see this as a waste of resources to generate more impractical ideas than winners, the actual result is the few pearls that are created are more successful than when we try to only make pearls. Most creative geniuses’ works of greatest renown occurred in the midst of their highest output.
If you have ideas but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.
Invite Curiosity and Play: The personality trait most tied to creativity is Openness to Experience. Creativity has an inherent quality of risk in it. The way entrepreneurs, artists and scientists befriend risk is through either curiosity, playfulness or both. This especially true when we stop trying to find the “right” solution (or most probable one) and instead begin to consider the possibilities, playing with variations and ideas until something captures our attention.
Creative leaders are more comfortable with ambiguity.
Record All Ideas: Although many ideas are just that—an idea, and nothing more—they can become a springboard for another, more powerful approach. Often these starter ideas get lost purely by overlooking their potential importance, and forgetting them altogether.
Get a Fresh Perspective: It can be difficult to innovate if you are too immersed in your own biases, rules and language within your domain of expertise. It can be helpful to take brainstorm sessions to a new location, outside the traditional meeting setting. And of course, hiring an outside consultant to help get the ball rolling can prove invaluable.
Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is formed.
Slow Down to Speed Up: If you are motivated to solve a problem, focusing on something else, exercising, meditating, or sleeping on it can lead to divergent thinking and more possibilities. This allows the brain’s default mode to continue working on the problem without the interference of your executive function’s judgment and overly stressful focus.
Creativity and innovation are not the same thing. Creativity is a mechanism to being innovative.
Expand Your Hiring: Most of us are aware that organizations with greater diversity, a variety of viewpoints, cultural backgrounds, personalities, approaches and skill sets are more resilient and growth-centric. They also are more creative and innovative.
“Either you innovate or you’re in commodity hell. If you do what everybody else does, you have a low-margin business.” ~ Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM (2004)
Implement the “Yes, And…” Technique: One method for spurring creative brainstorming is trying a technique used in improvisational theater: “Yes, and…” The approach encourages colleagues to build off their peers’ thoughts by first agreeing, and then adding something to the discussion. Taking “no” off the table ensures all ideas are heard. Employees can test this approach by simply putting a paperclip in the middle of the table and thinking up as many uses for it as possible. Consider this a warm up act for the tough issues your team will need to tackle. Creativity in business is a crucial first step that needs to be prioritized by senior leadership. A survey by IBM of more than 1,500 chief executive officers shows consensus: Creativity was ranked as the number one factor for future business success—above management discipline, integrity, and even vision.
Be Flexible: Your team is made up of individuals with different styles and preferences. This realization is dawning in light of the Great Resignation. Offering flexible arrangements, the ability to work from home, and at non-traditional hours, is already known to make employees healthier, happier, and more productive. When expectations are clear, and accountability is in place, flexibility is an easy strategy to test, and leverages the individuals’ peak creative periods.
Treat Creativity as A Practice, Not a Moment in Time: Most organizations have traditionally approached creativity as situational. The phrase, “It’s time to get creative,” imply that creativity is a bit like a light switch. Instead, like a language or other learned, complex skill, the idea that we can be creative on demand, and then not be creative the rest of the time, leads to a disappointing creativity wasteland.
Practice Empathy: Too many marketers follow the herd. From funnel marketing to live brand activations, the techniques and tactics are dismally similar, and rapidly become a big turnoff to buyers. Think about how annoying you find the same email solicitations dressed up as compelling personal insights in your inbox, or those creepy follow ads that show up everywhere you go in the internet. Ultimately, creativity recognizes that to stand out, we must stand apart, and forge a new, inviting route for connection and inspiration of our fellow human beings, who might just be our customers.