Spur Creativity in Your Business Today – Yes, You Can!
Every business, irrespective of size or industry, benefits from creativity. Sales people dream up new pitches. Engineers invent products. Marketers come up with new logos. Legal Departments try out novel legal theories. Front-line workers figure out more efficient ways to do their jobs. Everyone needs to spur creativity!
One of the biggest problems a lot of writers have is inspiration. Either there are no ideas, or there are too many ideas and it becomes impossible to decide which one is the best. Or maybe the idea exists but not its execution. Blank pages can feel daunting. They’re a bit like that new product line you need to create from scratch, or the solution to the scheduling problem that has been baffling everyone for months, or the decisions you need to make about where to branch out.
5. Spur Creativity Just by Going Outside
Yes, really! Go! Maybe you think it’s a little silly, but get everyone on your team outside (safely) and take a walk around the premises, or the local mall, or a park, whatever you like. This can and should be short, as in fifteen minutes or less. Don’t even put on sneakers. But you should give everyone a heads up in case they want to do so. High heels are no fun on pavement for too long.
When you’re outside, have a conversation about anything other than work. Or stay quiet, if you prefer. Watch the squirrel bury a nut for the winter, or take in the city’s passing parade, or notice the weather.
A change of scenery can help a lot of people to become more creative. It can also help people deal with stress, which makes it tougher to focus and can really squelch creativity. Plus you might see or hear or talk about something which, directly or indirectly, helps.
Furthermore, physical activity can help to lighten your mood. While it’s probably not enough to really kick out clinical depression, it can help people who are feeling “off” feel better. In particular, if you or anyone on your team get Seasonal Affective Disorder, then getting outside during the winter can be huge.
4. Spur Creativity Because The Ideas Jar Can Save You
The late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury wrote a book called Zen in the Art of Writing. One of Bradbury’s best ideas for creativity is the writing jar. But you don’t have to call it that. It can be the ideas jar or the great ideas folder, or the like. A physical jar has heft to it, but it’s not necessary, particularly when you have people in several locations.
Add to it when you have ideas. Good, bad, or weird ideas; it doesn’t matter. Just add ideas to it. Keep it out where everyone can see it and add to it. Let everyone submit either with their names or anonymously. Make it clear: this is not really the same as a suggestions box. Rather, it is a parking lot for ideas. Keep paper or sticky notes nearby, with pens. Of course if the “jar” is really just a folder on the server, you don’t have to do that. You want it to be easy, fun, and nothing out of the ordinary to contribute. Encourage people to add an idea a week, no matter how small, outlandish, or expensive.
Subtract from it when you don’t have ideas. Naturally, some ideas will be better than others. But don’t throw the “bad” ones out. Instead, put them back. Or take out more than one idea and see if you can combine them. Don’t forget to put the idea(s) back for reuse, and to recognize the idea man or woman, too.
Bradbury also said, “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” The same is true about ideas for the jar. It’s not possible to have fifty-two bad ideas in a row, in a year.
Spur Creativity with a Pro Tip
So if you use a physical jar, make sure you provide several different colors of paper or sticky notes. It makes it look better, and you will feel the jar has more in it than it might have at first glance.
Why should it matter if the jar looks better? It matters because this isn’t meant to feel like work. Rather, an ideas jar is meant to feel a lot more like play. So don’t make it look like a big stack of TPS reports.
3. Spur Creativity and Open Yourself to the Inspiration All Around You
This is similar to the idea of going outside. Look around you and consider how the world works. George de Mestral, in 1948, noticed burrs getting onto the fur of his hunting dog and on his pant legs while hunting in the Jura Mountains. Those burrs were hard to get out. De Mestral determined that the burrs had small hooks which were grabbing onto the tiny loops of thread on his pant legs. He realized the burrs made great fasteners.
From these observations, he concluded that if he made a two-part fastener where one side was hooks and the other was loops, he’d be onto something to rival the zipper. That something is Velcro®.
Spur Creativity Because Inspiration is Everywhere
This tactic requires keen observational skills. But you don’t have to snoop or eavesdrop. Listen to ambient conversations on the bus or in the grocery store. Take the elevator to a new floor in your office building and check out who works there. Ask a friend for their recipe for the best apple pie in the universe and listen to what they really have to say about it.
Consider, too, how a pitcher winds up before a pitch, or how a mechanic fixes your car. What are the obvious skills they have? What are the not so obvious ones? A pitcher doesn’t just have to be good at throwing. They also have to be able to read the body language of the batter. And a mechanic doesn’t just have to be good at fixing cars. They also have to be good at understanding what people who aren’t so knowledgeable about cars really mean when they complain about something or other.
2. Spur Creativity When You Have One Degree of Separation
Do you remember the six degrees of separation (or if you prefer, Kevin Bacon)? Everyone in the world, per the theory, can connect through five or fewer intermediaries. Try it. The zero degree is people you know personally.
Me, I can connect to Barack Obama in one or two degrees. It depends on whether President Joe Biden remembers I worked in his campaign office in 1984. And I can connect to 1978 Nobel Prize winner Arno Penzias (joint winner, for physics) in one. He and my father worked together decades ago. How about you?
Spur Creativity with Object Marriages
Now apply that to objects and ideas, and marry them together. A shoe, a can of tuna, and a plane ticket – how can they connect? A person can possess all of these things. Maybe they need a way to sort through the clutter of their life to figure out what’s most important. Or maybe they’re just looking for their other shoe.
A dog’s chew toy, a paper towel, and an old flip phone? So maybe you can make a chew toy in the shape of the old phone, and include a paper towel coupon in the package, for all of the inevitable canine messes in life.
An idea to use a hot air balloon, a picture frame, and a pair of tweezers? Now how about adding a chance to win a hot air balloon ride if a customer buys a pair of tweezers? Or maybe change the display image for the picture frame to that of a colorful hot air balloon.
1. Spur Creativity and Go Contrary
What happens when you take a look into a characteristic shared by only three percent of your customers? And what if you go with the unpopular or unconventional choice?
In 2004, video and DVD rentals were still all the rage. Yet Viacom, which owned Blockbuster, sold it. While Viacom did notice its investment was losing money, many at the time thought the move was a grave mistake. Of course nowadays on demand entertainment via cable television and livestreaming has buried video stores for good.
Viacom didn’t necessarily have a crystal ball. It’s more that they understood the video store model wasn’t going to last forever. They zigged instead of zagged. While they lost money on the sale, they also removed an albatross from the company’s neck. By playing the long game and looking to the future, they ended up making money.
So what is contrary and against the conventional wisdom in your business or industry? How will you take the road less traveled?
Spur Creativity: Takeaways
Creative thinking can elevate any business. And anyone can do it, with a little practice. So take some time and practice generating ideas, and figuring out where they go. Your mind – and those of your colleagues – might just surprise you.