I work in a creative business – the business of creativity to be exact, and I see how difficult it is for some business people and academics to understand HOW a creative approach can help a business grow. But in today’s business environment, I can’t imagine a thriving business that is not looking at their business in a creative way.
The subject of creativity in business has been on the forefront lately, discussed in business blogs and articles in serous publications. There is no question that the term “CREATIVE“ is getting some major traction, according to LinkedIn (based on 135 million professional profiles in several languages), in 2011 “CREATIVE” was the most overused buzz word on user profiles in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, UK. But what the heck does it REALLY mean in business ?
What does creativity mean in business?
Does this mean that executives should immerse themselves in afternoons of finger painting in order to find their inner creative mojo? (I am sure this wouldn’t hurt in the least). For the most part business people have been indoctrinated to draw inside the lines, and to ask them to reverse this way of doing things is quite radical, so how can you change this?.
In one of my favorite business books, Daniel H. Pink’s A Whole New Mind , Pink suggests, that the era of “left brain” dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which “right brain” qualities-inventiveness, empathy, and meaning-predominate. But how do we make this change that Pink describes? How do we transition from the predominance of the left brain into the right brain?
There is no doubt, that we are experiencing a major departure from a time when there was a distinct separation between business and creativity, when there was little room for creativity in “serious” businesses, and creativity was something relegated to “free thinkers”. This change is evident as even more conservative companies like Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sears, are hiring creativity consultants in the hopes of helping to develop a culture where original ideas and innovation are stimulated. Thankfully, we are also seeing a great change in business schools, as they are starting to recognize the importance of creativity, and the role that it plays in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.
There is no doubt that creativity is one of the most important ingredients for a successful startup. And it is also one of the most important success criteria for anybody involved in business leadership. Evidence of this can be seen in IBM’s survey of more than 1,500 Chief Executive Officers from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide, who overwhelming stated their belief that creativity is the number one most important quality to successfully navigating an increasing complex world. But how does a business go about making this part of it’s culture?
Earlier attempts at creativity in business – “Thinking outside the box”, OR the MOST overused expression ….. ever
In an effort to foster creativity and innovation, in the late 90′s we overused the term “Thinking outside the box” (I cringe when I hear this expression), this concept was meant to help develop creative thinking, among business people, and a creative way to look beyond what is tangible and present, and think beyond boundaries and envision POSSIBILITIES. There was a great deal of conversation about this concept, but few business people actually grasped the meaning of this, much less the implementation of what is learned when really “Thinking outside the box”.
I really believe that most people like knowing what is outside of the box, but few actually embrace it, and that could be because it means change, and most people are uncomfortable with that.
Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.
Creativity in business is not only about product innovation, but can help businesses create ways that help us work smarter and improve the quality of life, think about Apple, Google and Facebook. Let us not forget that true creativity spawned these companies, and they are helping to redefine our world.
I believe we are all creative, the expression varies, to me it is not second nature IT IS my nature. As a result, I probably developed more right-brain thinking skills and so, creativity and creative thinking are the way I think about everything from taking brushing my teeth to problem solving. But how can people who are not accustomed to thinking in a creative way, learn to do so?
Adding structure to creativity is how you codify your ideas
It’s true that creativity can lead to innovation, but sometimes……. it just leads to doing something with no particular quantifiable results other than providing a great deal of personal satisfaction, in business, where ROI measures success, this can be unsettling. But the truth is you can’t force creativity or innovation in business, it has to be a part of the culture, and it has to be “native” to the people in the company – you can’t just make a shift to a creative culture happen over night.
One of the first systems I learned about that helps to give structure to the creative process is Julia Cameron’s “Artists Way”. It has tools for creative people, one of the most important is a daily ritual called “Morning Pages’. And even though this process was created for artists, I wholeheartedly encourage anyone to try it.
There is little mystery, like anything else, creativity takes practice, to become a music virtuous it takes practice, to become a great painter you must paint tirelessly…. so allow yourself the room to practice being creative – even if it means finger painting in your office when no one is looking!