When running your own small business, we are often called to be creative and innovative. Without this ability, I have discovered it is nearly impossible to be successful, let alone stay afloat. This innovative and creative spirit is especially important to small business owners because they do not have the kind of budgets the big corporations can play with. Small business owners are required to craft new and innovative ways to get the most “bang for their buck” whether that be refurbishing old unsuccessful projects into successful ones, cutting costs without cutting corners, and of course, thinking of new ways of marketing or boosting sales.While most of the small business owners I work with do embody this innovative spirit, they often forget to foster this spirit throughout their company. To run efficiently and productively as possible, they need their entire team to be on the same creative page.In Adrian Brown’s “Creativity & Innovation” he highlights five characteristics that he has observed in creative organizations. All of which I believe are important not just for large corporations, but especially for small business. They are:1. “Information is free flowing: Creativity is partially about making new connections. For example: applying a familiar technology to a completely new application.”2. “New ideas are welcomed: It is easy for individuals and companies to become stuck in its ways. Habitual behaviors, a rigid adherence to “best practices and groupthink can all act as barriers to new ideas3. “Good ideas are nurtured: New ideas are delicate and can easily be killed off with an executive shrug or simply a lack of care and attention”….4. “Risk taking is accepted”: “Experimentation and innovation involve some failures along the way. Risk taking doesn’t mean being reckless, rather it means understanding the risk/reward relationship and taking calculated risks where the potential rewards are valuable.”5. “Innovators are rewarded: Creativity is hard to measure and can often be ignored by compensation and reward systems.” However, often it is enough to publicly recognize creativity with a simple thank you for a job well done, believe it or not, this sends a powerful message through your organization.It helps to remember “you are not alone.” Remember, it is important to not only tap into your own creativity; but also your staff or team’; you may be surprised at the ideas they may have to boost your business!If you are looking for more ways to develop your personal creativity, or that of your team, I recommend that you enroll in an online course that is part of Profit Consulting Co.’s “Creativity & Innovation” program. This convenient and easy to use program expands on Brown’s major themes and provides interactive exercises, additional readings, and offers learners hands-on exercises to spur personal creativity.This is just one of the many programs of study we have recently added to our website! (www.profitconsultingco.com). We also feature courses in Business Communications, Leadership, Finance, and Management. These courses are affordably priced, 100% web based and in a self-study format allowing you to improve your creative, business, or management skills at your own convenience.
Getting investors and support for your start-up business is tricky at the best of times, but when your project is innovative and outside the box it can be near-impossible.This was the experience of Judy and Michael Corbett who, in the early 1970’s, had an idea for sustainable and child-friendly urban design. They imagined a place where rather than being isolated in big homes, smaller, solar-powered homes would leave enough land for community participation, and where the need for children to play, climb and explore would take priority over roads and cars.Designing the estate was one thing, but raising the support they needed for their property development would be something else altogether. Judy and Michael were knocked back by 20 financial institutions before securing their business loan. Having found the 70 acre development block to situate the community, they had to respond to objections raised by every single government department before building could begin. Today, “Village Homes Community” in California is considered prime real estate.But long before global warming and eco-design were catchphrases, the challenges that Judy and Michael must have faced in getting their idea off the ground are predictable.Although much is made of the importance of hard work and passion, there is some danger in assuming that it is the only factor in success. There are literally thousands of good ideas that go to waste, despite coming from people who believe in them passionately and who work hard at them. It is a challenge to raise capital for a property development venture – let alone one that confronts the “way things are” and turns conventional practice on its head in the way the Village Homes project did. Aside from all of the normal business planning activities, therefore, getting a creative project off the ground can benefit from some a few extra strategies that reflect the particular context of a creative idea: #1: Turn people into your champions by recognising their strengths Creative ideas can come up for a lot of criticism: “It’s not possible” “No-one would go for it” “It would be too expensive” “It wouldn’t work” “You’d look like an idiot” “Its not the way things are done”Thankfully, people who are passionately committed to their creative ideas, are not usually dissuaded by these types of comments (can you imagine how much poorer the world would be if people like Steve Irwin or Erin Brockovich had followed this type of advice?).However, there is a difference between not giving up – and simply not bothering to listen. Although the delivery may not be ideal, people who criticise creative ideas can often have good insight into what needs to be done to refine them to a point of viability. As a general rule of thumb, the more powerful the objector, the greater the champion they can become when they believe in your idea.An effective way of achieving this is to consider the ways you can utilise the strengths of your critics. Rather than dismissing people as “knowing nothing” just because they criticise your plans – invite them to tell you what they think would need to change for it to work and whether your idea can be developed to reflect the insights and strengths that your critic has to offer. A strengths-based approach invites people into your idea without backing them into a corner, and helps to build a sense ownership and commitment that sustains your idea beyond your own personal passions. #2: Learn how to tell your story for different audiences. The passion for a creative idea – particularly an idea designed to change the world – is often based in a social or ethical imperative. Village Homes, for example, came from a desire to ensure children had the freedom to play in close proximity to nature – not out of economic or other imperatives. However, in order to become reality the Corbett’s had to be able to sell their idea to people with different types of values and understandings.Try brainstorming all of the potential audiences that you will need on your side to make your idea happen. Depending on your idea, this might include bankers, researchers, builders, publishers, or professionals. Remember that at some point, you will need the support of people who won’t automatically see the value in your idea. Regardless of what your key message is, do some research into the values that various audiences feel most affinity with and “package” your idea accordingly. Two of the more common ways in which you might need to package your idea include: Its economic viability – Your idea doesn’t necessarily have to make money or profits, but you need to show how it has a positive economic impact. It is unlikely to get any support if people perceive its going to cost lots of money, without any measurable benefits. Its cultural viability – Too many good ideas don’t get off the ground because they are seen as “too radical” and challenge cultural norms too dramatically. This is particularly a challenge for people seeking support from government and public institutions, and groups of professionals. While it is easy to criticise people who don’t support an idea that is “radical” (even if it is “right”), it also needs to be kept in mind that many people depend on not rocking the boat for their livelihoods and their sense of security and belonging.In selling to this type of audience, it can help to identify the factors which influence decision-making in the setting that they work in. Is it a particular piece of policy? Is it a particular tradition? Is it a specific objective? By demonstrating how your idea could contribute to this imperative – rather than undermining it – people will be much less likely to feel that your idea will “rock the boat” and will often be much more willing to help. #3: Join a Business Network or an Ideas Bank There is probably no more useful strategy for getting a creative idea up and running than to join a local business network. These networks obviously provide a ready forum for testing and developing support for any ideas – whether they are innovative or not.However, is not uncommon for people with strongly creative ideas to feel uncomfortable or out of place in business networks – particularly those at the local level, which tend to be more conservative in nature. The trick with business networks is to use them as an opportunity to build on the two strategies described above. Business Angels come in many shapes and forms – and are not always financial benefactors. Local business networks are the perfect place for banging a creative idea into a shape that will withstand the challenges that a wider audience will throw at it.The other (or additional) option is to join an ideas bank, or global problem-solving circle. These are popping up all over the internet and join together and provide a forum for people to share problem-solving challenges and to contribute innovative solutions. Most Idea Banks provide the opportunity for people to comment on and give feedback on the solutions proposed. These are very dynamic sites, and the best ones moderate their comments to ensure that feedback is always constructive.
Does your management team think creatively? Are they out-of-the box thinkers?To help you answer this question, think about the following comments:
Creativity is more important than ever in companies of all kinds. I am talking about creativity from a broad perspective. Often people think of creativity as something that only certain people can do, or that only certain kinds of jobs require – like being an artist, or musician, or designer or writer.
But the truth is, every single company – no matter what kind of industry it is in – needs creativity. Companies need creative thinkers to look at problems from new perspectives, to synthesize information in new ways, and to produce new solutions and efficiencies that might not have been thought of before.
Every time someone on your team comes up with a cost-saving strategy or a way to do more with less, that is an act of creativity.
Every time someone in your company devises a new way to harness the talents of your organization or cultivates a profitable new business relationship, or identifies a new strategic direction, that is an act of creativity.
A lot of business leaders think, I am not creative. But you need to approach creativity as a broadly-defined concept. Creativity is not just about being a performer. It is not just about knowing how to paint or draw or be entertaining at parties. Creativity also entails the much quieter, deliberative, behind-the-scenes work that makes up so much of modern business life.
For too long, many companies have treated their employees like widget-makers – with the assumption that everyone is basically interchangeable. That everyone is doing the same kind of work every day. This is a holdover from the industrial age and the assembly line. But increasingly, companies need to treat their employees like artist. With the assumption that everyone is capable of generating new ideas to move the company forward. (And if your employees are not capable of this kind of creative work, you need to hire some people who are.)
Creative organizations know how to embrace change, adapt to challenges, and cultivate a work environment where great people thrive.
What does all this have to do with fiscal health? Like so much else that I talk about with my clients, the fiscal health of your company is a reflection of the larger picture. If you are a creative organization where people are encouraged and rewarded for generating new ideas and creative solutions to problems, that creativity, more often than not, is going to be rewarded by your customers and reflected in the final tally on the balance sheet.
You may see different versions of this question in your life as:We are not creating computers. We are creating bicycles for the mind. (Steve Jobs, Apple) Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand. (Albert Einstein) How you think about a problem is more important than the problem itself- so always think positively. (Norman Vincent Peale positive thinking guru)Do you truthfully answer this Yes or No?Why?Why Not?How can the notes you just made help in your life, job and business? What one issue from your thoughts you noted when truthfully answering this question, will you start improving, TODAY?Because risks are what really go wrong when you are not looking: stupid things like bounced checks, losing your best customers or best people when you are blindsided. You need to create peripheral vision in your business so you are not blindsided.You need a perspective of life under the microscope and to have lived to tell the tale. Insights give a common sense approach to what people make complex, as companies grow.