Creativity for business. 5 tips on how to generate ideas that give you an edge.

No matter what sector you are operating in, competition is fierce and we are all struggling for market share and to maintain our margin.

Looking at your business creatively lets you see new avenues for growth, areas to cut costs, new ways to do things and new things to do.

Using the power of creativity you can make your business stand out from the crowd; you can tilt the playing field in your favour.

Indeed, all the business advice tells us to ‘think outside the box’, but how exactly do you do that?

Make your thinking more creative.

Creativity for business isn’t about being ‘wacky’ or ‘off the wall’, it’s about thinking in fresh and original ways to solve specific problems or take advantage of particular opportunities.

It’s serious stuff and when you get it right it can transform a business

Don’t be tempted to think that creativity for business is all about ‘blue-sky’ thinking. If anything, it’s just the opposite. It’s about focus. So, first of all, how do you focus?

No.1 Get the brief right.

Define the purpose accurately and tightly. Define it as a business objective or a product performance; define it in whatever way is most appropriate.

There are a couple of good reasons for this.

Transactional Analysis says that an individual spends time in one of three different states; adult, parent or child.

Well, creativity takes place in the ‘child’ state. That doesn’t mean creative people are childish, it just means that creativity is play and creative thought likes a nice, safe, clearly defined playpen.

So say to yourself or your team, ‘Do anything you want – but within these boundaries.’

I think the second good reason is this; creativity is often a translation service from the logical to the likeable. If the purpose is properly defined, the creative product will have the intended affect.

No. 2 It’s a left-brain, right-brain thing.

The creative process needs to be separated into two parts.

The first stage is idea generation. Have as many ideas as you can and don’t censor them. Don’t judge them.

Get the ideas out on paper. Yes, paper.

Computers are good for realising an idea but not so good for helping people generate one. You can’t easily doodle on a computer and doodling is what you do while your child state is coming up with new ideas.

Let’s call this stage right-brain thinking. It’s intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective.

Now use the more logical and analytical left-brain to judge those ideas and sort out the good from the bad.

Repeat the process as often as you can. Which leads us to…

No. 3 Creativity needs a lot of an increasingly scarce resource. Time.

Sometimes your first ideas are your best. But not very often.

Leave enough time for the whole left-brain, right-brain thing but also leave enough time to step back from the task.

The subconscious is powerfully good at creativity but it needs to be left alone to do its work and not constantly asked, ‘How are things going on?’

One of the worst things that the pace of modern business has done is to deny the creative process enough time.

No. 4 Cheat, copy and steal – but do it from the best.

Truly original ideas are increasingly scarce. Successful creativity is more often about combing ideas and influences in a unique and innovative way.

If that’s the case then a creative thinker needs to be open to a wide range of stimulus and inspiration but in the same way a great chef combines only the best ingredients, choose your influences with care.

If you are looking to update your business model then look at the most successful business in your sector but look outside your industry too. The broader your research, the more likely you are to se a connection that no one else has noticed.

No. 5 Be brave.

Creativity is powerful stuff. It breaks rules, challenges perceptions and overturns opinions.

Don’t expect everyone to love your idea. Certainly don’t expect everyone to love you for having it.

But if you believe in your idea, fight for it. After all, it’s a gift from your inner child.

Eureka?

To have real value, creativity for business needs to get off the drawing board and into the business itself.

A great idea needs to be brought to life. Sweeping changes need to be enacted; new behaviours and new thinking need to spread through the company.

Making these changes happen can be as difficult as coming up with the idea in the first place. Fortunately, we can help here as well.

Change Management can break the process down into stages; break it down into which stakeholders will be affected and how you can best communicate with and manage them to get their positive engagement.

Agile Project Management can generate a pathway that will see the project fulfilled on time and on budget and ensuring the project is commercialised as well as fulfilled.

Now, doesn’t it sound like a good idea to talk to M&G.

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