When it comes to running a successful business, having quality products and services plus a knowledgeable and friendly staff all play a huge role. But so does creativity, a business subject that has taken center stage in recent years. In fact, a 2010 IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs, general managers, and senior public sector leaders in 33 industries around the world ranked “creativity” as the most important skill leaders would need to succeed through the next five years.
You might think you’re too busy running your business or that creativity doesn’t play a part in your role. But according to NYU-Stern professor Kim Corfman,“Creativity is important for organizations. Period. It’s a simple correlation: higher creativity leads to greater innovation within the organization and thus, greater success over the long run.”
So if you’re ready to infuse more creativity into your business but you’re not sure where to begin, here are four tips to help you get started.
Write It All Down
In The Artist’s Way, a 12-week program that helps people develop their creativity, Julia Cameron recommends that participants write three “morning pages” every day. Cameron refers to these pages as a “clearing exercise,” for the mind. What do you write about in morning pages? Anything you want — with no editing or rewriting required. They aren’t meant to be great literature or even publishable. The point is to just get all your thoughts out on paper — or the digital version of it.
Why should you write morning pages as a business owner or manager? Because writing all your jumbled, disparate thoughts can lead to “ah hah” moments — those clear visions of solutions to business problems, ideas for new products, or ways to improve your business’ services. So before you head out the door every day, take time to write your morning pages about anything. Yes, anything. (In other words, they don’t have to be about your company.) The goal is to clear your mind to help inspired ideas and solutions come to the surface that you might want to implement later in your business.
Brainstorm with Your Team
Sure, when it comes to your business, you’re the boss. But if you’re facing a problem and you’re just not sure what steps to take to solve it, ask your team to help you brainstorm solutions. (We’ve all heard the phrase, “Two heads are better than one.”)
For example, perhaps your sales have dipped the past few months and you need fresh ideas to get new customers. This is where brainstorming can come in. Gather your team and let them know what the problem is and then list out all new ideas, perhaps on a whiteboard. And while you should go into a brainstorm with a specific goal in mind, how you get to that goal can be something seemingly random. For instance, if your goal is to increase foot traffic to your store this holiday season, you can begin by asking people what feelings they get when going shopping during the holidays. Getting your staff to consider their own consumer experiences can help you plan what to do, and what not to do, to attract consumers.
When starting your brainstorm session, it’s important to stress to your team that there is no such thing as a bad idea; creating an atmosphere of open collaboration is important to a successful brainstorm. In other words, entertain all ideas; don’t shoot anything down. To ensure that the “bigger personalities” in the room don’t inadvertently take over the brainstorming session, make sure each team member has had a chance to voice their ideas. While brainstorming isn’t a guarantee you’ll solve your problem, it’s a creative tactic you can use to help find the answers you’re seeking.
Take a Walk
Taking a simple walk can have a positive effect on creative thought, according to Stanford University in its research report, “Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking.”
In one experiment, 100% of participating students provided more creative answers to questions while walking compared to the answers they provided while sitting. In three subsequent walking tests, 95%, 88%, and 81% of participants respectively provided more creative answers than they did when sitting. Why does this happen? According to the researchers, “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity…”
So if you’re sitting at your desk and you’re stuck on business problem, take a quick walk to help you with your problem solving. Your solution might just come you in a moment of inspiration.
Read Widely for Ongoing Learning
Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and the world’s richest man, recommends reading widely as one of the “skills you need to succeed.” And Gregg Fraley, business thought leader and author, says that reading widely helps drive innovation because it gives you “more dots to connect.” His reading list includes biographies, fiction, and business books.
So while keeping up with your industry is no doubt important, mixing it up by reading outside of your industry can help spur ideas and drive innovation in your business, too. (See what Bill Gates has on his bookshelf here). Also, don’t forget other avenues such as TED talks, documentaries, museums, music performances, and art galleries as sources you can dive into to help develop your creative acumen.
How do you bring creativity to your business? Let us know with a comment below!