If you’re running your own small business, or thinking about starting one, then chances are that you’re already creative and putting your ideas into practice.
But as any business owner knows that your initial idea is often just the start. Ongoing creativity is also not an optional extra for companies. It is a crucial component of a successful business. This is because creativity is really about change. It is about thinking differently and challenging the status quo. It is about having the same conditions as other people but coming up with something fresh.
And it is this new thinking and innovation that helps secure the future for businesses big and small, and keeps individuals relevant in a fast-paced changing world.
With creativity being so crucial to business success, we asked Claire Bridges, author of, In Your Creative Element to explain how to harness the creativity, within yourself and your team, to fuel your business growth;
Companies are recognising that in this digital age, they need to think and act quicker. Many industries are now at threat of disintermediation or disruptive innovation. Successful start-ups like Uber, Netflix and Airbnb are changing the way we live our lives. Those playing catch up are at a major disadvantage.
Companies that are focusing on just improving their existing products and profit margins, and not keeping an eye on the marketplace or taking newcomers seriously make themselves vulnerable.
Being too slow to change or too inward-looking can be fatal for companies. One of the most famous examples of this shortsightedness was the camera manufacturer Kodak.
Despite inventing the first digital camera in 1975, the company failed to embrace the potential of digital photography quickly enough, because it was a threat to its existing film business. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.
It is also important as an individual to constantly update your skills and monitor wider trends. The skills you have today may not be the skills you need tomorrow.
Creative thinking helps to push your business forward
Creative thinking is an important way of protecting yourself and pushing your business forward.
Adobe, known for their creative solutions, produced a report called the ‘Creative Dividend’ and whilst it’s a few years old the findings are still relevant. The key findings were that:
- Companies that foster creativity achieve exceptional revenue growth than peers. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents that said their firms foster creativity had revenues exceeding the previous year’s revenues by 10% or more.
- More creative companies enjoy greater market share and competitive leadership.
- More creative companies win recognition as a best place to work.
- Creativity thrives with leadership support.
Committing to creativity and actively helping to foster a creative culture is important for the long-term health of a company.
Placing emphasis on creativity will encourage people to think differently and feel comfortable challenging existing processes and practices. These new ideas may be your next successful product, or they may even save your business.
Creative thinking – approaching a task of challenge differently can directly improve the bottom line by helping you to write tighter, more compelling proposals if you’re pitching for business, writing that business plan or raising money from the bank.
Think creatively about how you can make your pitch stand out from the same type of business competing for cash. I once had to pitch for £1m worth of business in just 10 slides. It certainly focused the mind on what I was going to say, and how, and whilst tough to do make the pitch far more compelling and engaging.
Creative thinking is really about flexible thinking. Consider many options, not just the most obvious and ‘war game’ what your competitors might do or be doing. Try it. List your top 3 competitors.
- Given your challenge what would they do?
- What wouldn’t they do? What weaknesses do they have that you can exploit?
- What weaknesses of yours would they exploit?
- If they could have 5 minutes with your customer or target audience what would they be saying to make them switch to their brand or service?
- If you were starting your company today from scratch what would you do differently to what you’re doing now?
Walk in someone else’s shoes
Try injecting a new spark by imagining how someone else would deal with your problem. You can use anyone dead or alive, fictional or real. Some of my personal favourites are a crack team of Creative Directors consisting of Barack Obama, Steven Spielberg and Lady Gaga.
Any of these, we’re pretty sure, would have an entirely new take on that marketing idea for your business, compliance campaign or new biscuit launch. So ask – what would X do?
You can also try and generate ideas from another brand’s perspective too. Sounds frivolous but can actually yield some interesting new routes if you’re stuck at your desk chewing on the end of a pencil willing your ‘muse’. You might be there a while.
RELATED: How to out-think your competition
Change your perspective
According to astronauts, the view of the Earth from space is so overwhelming that it changes their perspective on everything forever – it’s called the overview effect. You can always take a step back from your creative problem and try and get a birds-eye view that will give you some different ideas.
Try and look at your problem or challenge as if you were seeing it for the very first time and see what happens. Pull focus and thinking about it from a big picture perspective as well as in minute detail.
So if you’re thinking about running shoes the big picture might be that they make you run faster or get you fitter, the detail might be the laces or what’s imprinted on the sole, or the box they arrive in.
You might not have the advertising budget or the resources of your bigger competitors, but you don’t have to outspend them if you can out-think them.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Claire Bridges, Founder of training consultancy Now Go Create and author of In Your Creative Element – highly practical book, packed with case studies and tips from creative experts and organisations including the NHS, United Nations, Twitter, Punchdrunk, Sky Media and Paddy Power as well as some of the world’s most successful advertising and PR agencies.
More on leadership
You can find lots more insight on leading and growing a business, in these other ByteStart articles;
Leading a business
- How to be a leader rather than a manager
- 5 tips to help you create a great team at your start-up
- The Founder’s dilemma – Managing the transformation from start-up to growth business
- 6 common leadership traps to avoid in your new business
- Why the best leaders do less
Going for growth
- 5 Steps to kick-starting growth in your business
- How reverse mentorship can help drive fresh ideas, develop staff and help your business succeed
- Barriers to growth – how to identify them and how to overcome them
- How happy employees can boost your bottom line – 5 Happiness strategy stories
- Developing your startup’s greatest asset – YOU
More from ByteStart
ByteStart is packed with help on all aspects of running a business, check out some of our other guides;
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- 5 Ways you could be stifling staff, and 5 Steps to harnessing their full potential
- How businesses can encourage a healthy work/life balance and benefit from more engaged and productive employees
- Using staff benefits to motivate and retain employees
- How to motivate employees and create a loyal workforce on a budget
- Wisdom of Crowds: 4 ways customers can improve your company
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- Making your small business a BIG hit online – A Digital marketing guide for small business owners
- How to create business cards that make a big impression
- The “Magic 10” Tips on networking – how the experts build great networks
- A Practical guide to Content Marketing for small business owners and start-ups
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Funding your business
- How to maximise your chances of securing a small business loan
- A Guide to ‘Alternative Finance’ – the new funding options for startups and small businesses
- Finding finance for your new business – funding advice for start-ups
- How peer-to-peer lending offers businesses a new funding option
- What to do when the bank says “NO”!