Everywhere I turn in business these days, it seems like everyone is talking about creativity. If it’s not “creative,” “innovative” or, (as in this podcast series I happened across recently) “disruptive”—which is basically weaponized creativity—it’s like it’s not even worth talking about.
I mean, what ever happened to the days when an entrepreneur could just make an honest living running a boring widget factory?
But since we live in the age of creativity, we might as well address the real questions burning in everyone’s mind: What is “creativity,” anyway? And, if you’re not a born creativity savant, or you’ve somehow lost your mojo, how do you get started becoming creative?
Let’s start with the first: Creativity is the ability to see how the resources around you can be combined to create solutions to problems. Pretty simple, right? But this is another one of those cases where simple doesn’t mean easy. And trying to conjure “creativity” out of thin air usually works about as well as getting water out of a dry well.
Which brings us to the second question: How does one get started with creativity in the first place? Or, if you feel like you’ve lost your mojo, how do you get that spark of genius back?
I have five suggestions that have worked for me at different points in my career, but they all revolve around the same basic principle, which is this: Creativity isn’t born in a vacuum. Instead, it happens as a natural byproduct of moving forward, engaging with people and their problems, putting yourself in situations where you can see unique resources that might just provide the solutions, and cultivating a sense of when to jump on the right opportunity.
So, without further ado, here are all of the creative details.
Get a mentor or business coach.
It could be a seasoned colleague who takes you under her wing, or an “angel” investor who becomes personally invested in your success, or it may be an old pro you hire as a sounding board and accountability referee. However you approach it, there’s no question that having a different, mature perspective on the problems you face in your business—and the options available for solving them—is pure gold. With the synergy of two minds approaching things from opposing directions, your creative vision will blast into whole worlds of new possibilities.
Join a mastermind.
Similar to the mentor/coaching option (and often less expensive), a good mastermind allows you easy access to savvy people with a range of backgrounds and experiences who will be able to point out your blind spots and mental blocks, suggest solutions that are obvious to them but revolutionary in your niche, and help hold you accountable. If you haven’t tried a mastermind yet—you should.
Rub elbows with peers.
No one company in an industry or niche has the whole picture figured out. Spending time with colleagues, both within your company as well as “competitors,” will help you get some much needed perspective. (Yes, you can hang out with competitors—as long as they’re happy with it and your conversations never turn to price fixing, you’re good :))
Spend time with employees.
If you have employees (or independent contractors, or virtual assistants) and you don’t talk to very often, make an effort to pick their brains once in a while. Guaranteed they see the problems facing your business from a different perspective—which is what creative genius is all about. One employee’s justified angst could be the key to creating your next competitive edge. (This is especially true of your front line salespeople, who know exactly which product “features” are making their jobs hard and costing them sales—and what benefits they have to play up to get around it.) Get genuine feedback from the “bottom,” and you’ll find such an abundant source of problems and solutions, you’ll barely be able to stanch the flow of creativity.
Hang out with your customers.
Seriously, it’s a great way to get new insights…. Even those so-called ‘trouble’ clients can give you great new ideas. (Maybe especially them!) Your customers are the people whose problems it’s your job to solve. If you can’t identify with who they are, what makes them tick, what keeps them up at night, and what any of that has to do with why they really buy and how they use your product or service—well, you’ll run into serious problems sooner or later. But get good at asking those questions, and you’ll never be at a loss for lots of really great ideas.
If it feels like you’ve been coming up dry on creativity, give yourself a jump-start by putting these in practice—I can promise you’ll be cured in no time!