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Creativity, Imagination and Your Business

When we talk about business skills, how many times have you heard creativity or imagination mentioned? Oh sure, we talk about how someone is skilled with managing their finances, he/she is adept at networking or with having an instinct for timing a market.

Creativity, Imagination and BusinessIt seems obvious that creativity and imagination have a place in our businesses. I wrote a post recently about 11 Ways to Fuel Imagination and we talked about The Necessity of Creativity in 21st Century Business Thinking on #kaizenblog back in June. I guess you could say that I’ve been thinking about both for some time.

But in everyday business conversations, why don’t we talk about it more? Perhaps it seems somehow fluffy or unprofessional to consider oneself as creative or imaginative. Yet, every successful small business owner uses these two traits often.

How did you come up with your business vision? You used your imagination to describe the way you’ll change the world.

How did you come up with the products or services your business offers? Creativity and imagination.

How do you fit your vision, your offerings and your goals into your business plan? You use imagination to forecast how your business will perform.

So why don’t we talk about them more?

*If you’d like to explore the role of creativity and imagination in business, the myths or misconceptions of these traits and what business really thinks of creativity and imagination, join in the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, January 7th at 12pm ET/5pm GMT/9am PT.




11 Ways To Fuel Imagination

Fueling imagination and small businessMy kids love to hear me read books or tell stories to them. I have to admit that I do get into it with all kinds of voices and accents. Usually it doesn’t take much for me to “hear” the voice of a character. However, the other night I got stuck. I couldn’t for the life of me find a good voice for a character in my daughter’s story book. My imagination had failed me!

What does imagination and running a small business have in common? Keeping your small business fresh and growing is a creative process. It takes imagination. As you look at trends and listen to your customers, you get information about what events or opportunities are just over the horizon. Coupling this information with a sense of wonder and experimentation is nothing new to someone with an entrepreneurial mind.

However, occasionally we experience a creative block and can’t think of what to do. It can feel like a big, gaping nothingness. Forcing ideas usually means  you come up with some very awful ideas (if you come up with anything at all). Before you get desperate, stop and make a different choice.

Maybe you’re tired or anxious about what is going on in your small business. Easy enough to do when there are challenges like losing your best customer, difficult economic conditions or boredom.  This can interfere with accessing your creativity. It’s time to fuel your imagination. So here are 11  ways to get that creativity chugging away again:

1. Read a book.

2. See a movie

3. Go outdoors for a walk

4. Exercise

5. Do something silly-make faces, funny sounds or dance like no one is watching

6. Watch a TED video about anything

7. Take a nap

8. Read a post from Lateral Action

9. Talk to someone from another country

10. Draw or sketch out what you would like to be different in your small business

11. Play a musical instrument with or without talent or lesson

The short and sweet of this process is it doesn’t matter what you choose. Break your pattern and you will break up the creative block. Your small business usually works because of your entrepreneurial mind. You are already used to a style of thinking that is searching for “something else.” When you let your mind wander down a different path, it allows you to inhabit a different world for a moment. In this moment, you become an explorer. What can you bring back with you that will get you geared up to rethink your products and services. This is all your imagination needs for fuel!

What are your favorite ways to fuel your imagination?


The Necessity of Creativity in 21st Century Business-#kaizenblog recap

CreativityThere is a lot of talk about creativity and innovation. Everyone’s got to have these to build these amazing businesses! Be new! Be original! Be…what really? Is this truly necessary?

Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge, founder and co-host of #kaizenblog) and I decided to take on the idea of creativity in 21st century business for our #kaizenblog chat. In preparation for the chat, I did a little research and discovered 2 videos that talked about the importance of creativity in the 21st century. There are some who say that the “knowledge workers” are morphing into something else while others focus on how we will use the abilities of the right half of our brains more so than ever before. It’s worth checking out Dan Pink’s take on creativity here. Another person who has a lot to say about creativity is Ken Robinson who says the current education system kills creativity. If you are curious about how the conversation evolved, read this Transcript for #kaizenblog – Creativity.

It seemed to make sense to start at the beginning and ask, how do you describe creativity? More than just thinking up new ideas, it seemed important to find out what we all embed in our definitions of creativity. 

  • Lizzie Pauker (@lizziepauker)- “Creativity to me is all about innovation, new perspectives & thinking ‘outside the box.’ “
  • soumyapr (@soumyapr)- “Creativity is the ability to add disruptive change without losing the core value of an idea”
  • John Reddish (@GetResults)- “Creativity is going beyond or within to find new/innovative ways to expand consciousness /work-and we always need that.”
  • Andrew Fowler (@guhmshoo)- Remarkable content”
  • Joey Strawn (@joey_strawn)- “Creativity is the ability to show old things in a new way and the desire to create something from nothing.”
  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI)- “Creativity is continuous innovating ~ looking for new and better ways 24/7 365.”
  • Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum)- “I think creativity is the ability to not be so focused on the path ahead that you lose the scenery options.”

The descriptions at time seem to contradict each other  and that is what is intriguing about creativity in general. Perhaps it is one of those things we know it if we see it? Another aspect that almost everyone made a comment or retweeted another participant’s comment regarding how action is integral to the creative process. Linda Naiman (@alchemize) seemed to capture this when she tweeted, “If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.”

I suppose we could have continued the discussion that described creativity as there were references to how target markets define the value of the creative idea, if passion plays a role, and if challenge does provide the spark for creativity to occur.

So we came back to the idea that the 21st century will demand we use the skills of the right brain. If you are not familiar with these skills, let us pause for a moment to review them. The left brain is responsible for analyzing, logic, sequencing, objectivity, and looking at parts. The right brain is responsible for noticing patterns, connections, intuition, and subjectivity. If right brain skills are truly more dominant now, how does that shape the use of creativity?

The responses seemed to reflect the tension that can polarize many into being in the right brain camp versus the left brain camp. While there doesn’t have to be an either/or answer, the tension is worth noting.

  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland)- “W/ more right brain dominance, creativity should increase, but you still need left brain skills to support.”
  • Joey Strawn- “I agree! There needs to be marriage of the halves, while ideas need to come, there must be logical uses.”
  • Richard Becker (@richbecker)- “Creativity is seeing from a unique perspective. The right brain stuff is the boundaries we do it in.”

There are boundaries to right brain thinking? It seemed natural to ask how is the application of creativity the same or different in the 21st century? This part of the discussion picked up on the earlier theme of challenge perhaps providing the spark needed for creativity to occur.

  •  Amber Cleveland- “Creativity in 21st cent. is different b/c we have more tools, the same b/c we push our boundaries just like those b4.”
  • Joshua Pearlstein (@jpearlstein)- “It is the same, you have to be creative faster.”
  • “Richard Becker- “Creativity today isn’t all that different from Iron Chef. Limited ingredients often make for more interesting dishes.”
  • Caroline Di Diego- “Failing is def an ingredient for creativity ~ too much fear of failure NO creativity.”
  • Stanford Smith (@pushingsocial)- “In the Whole Mind World – Management=Knowing how to inspire creativity and how the heck to get out of the way.”

It doesn’t seem like we got any particular answers. It is clear from everyone’s responses that creativity is a necessity in  business, maybe even as we go forth as a society. It was also clear that we embed a lot of ideas into the concept of creativity.

What is your description of creativity?

What is the intersection between 21st century thinking and creativity?



Be Childlike to Run Your Business

 “It is the childlike mind that finds the kingdom.” -Charles Fillmore Girl Looking Up the RoadIn recent conversations about the economy with other businesspeople, there is a theme of overwhelm and fear. Understandable as we witness huge companies threaten bankruptcy, large numbers of layoffs, and credit is hard to obtain even with a good history. It is not clear how some of us are going to find funding and/or clients to keep our own business open. For some people, this triggers feelings of helplessness, confusion, and indecision. For entrepreneurs, these are destructive emotions. There is enough anxiety and excitement in starting or building up a venture. As we enter 2009, there is little to guide us into a stronger financial position. It is not reassuring to hear Alan Greenspan say he made a mistake. This economic mess is not simply a mistake by Mr. Greenspan or others. It is huge and affecting all sectors of the U.S. economy as well as having an impact globally. It may seem like you have to come up with a complicated business plan to handle the current challenges. And yet, a childlike approach may be the answer. My five year old is fascinating to watch as she navigates the family rules. Like most kids, she accepts that there are rules and parameters in a given situation. Somehow this does not limit her. Some of you who are parents may be familiar with the impressive debating powers children possess as they search for a solution to vexing problems such as how to have ice cream for breakfast or cleaning up the toys without touching them. Just because the circumstances have limitations does not seem to mean that there are no other choices. In a previous post, Hunker Down and Then What? , I wrote about how it seemed too easy to just stay in one spot and try to avoid doing any major damage to your business. However, the world can just pass you by if you reduce your marketing efforts, avoid enhancing your skills, or spending your networking time with the doom and gloom crowd. No one has a business plan for obsolescence. What does your kingdom look like?  Children often change storylines when it looks like the “bad guys” or the “monsters” are going to win. While we cannot change the bad economy by just wishing it so, we can change how we tell the story of “Our Business and the Economic Troll.”
  • Check your language. By using active, positive language, you are setting yourself up to stay open to opportunity. As an example, one of my clients is saying to himself, “I am scheduling 2-3 appointments with possible prospects to introduce myself.” By using an invitational approach, he believes there will be more conversations in the future.
  • Use your downtime wisely. If you are experiencing a slowdown in your particular business, read that professional book you have been saving or attend a training or teleseminar. There are a lot of free options online and in your community (check out the library, SCORE, SBA, and some networking groups offer free trainings.)
  • Review your business plan. This is a wonderful opportunity to make sure you are following your vision. Keep anything that supports the growth of your business and weed out anything that does not fit.  (If it almost fits, weed it out anyway.) Focus on what you and your business do well.
  • Take care of yourself. Your mind and body need sustenance. Include healthy, tasty foods in your diet. Children spend time coloring, playing with blocks and Legos, and napping as well as running and climbing. Take time to play.
The childlike approach has nothing to do with immaturity or waiting for Mommy or Daddy to fix things. It is about how you tell your story, how you re-think solutions, and allowing your creativity to keep your business viable. How do you find your kingdom?