Creativity is the new currency for small businesses and startups: Five ways to harness it today

Linda Jukic creativity

Linda Jukic. Source: supplied.

Starting your own business is a selfish act. The whiteboard at your shared workplace, or your second bedroom at home, shouts your mission statement; it’s my vision, my work, my rules. You have taken the ‘leap of faith’ (Harry and Meghan would be proud) and it’s a new exciting chapter driven by your own skills, expertise, talent and views of the world.

But on a wet Wednesday or listless Friday, dull thoughts crowd your mind and it seems impossible to find inspiration. There’s a sense of being boxed-in by bureaucratic red tape and bound by endless calls to the tax office; you start to feel more effort is going into working on the business rather than working for your business.

I think Hollywood’s fictional movie character Jerry Maguire had it right. After experiencing a life-altering epiphany about his role as a sports agent, he writes a mission statement about perceived dishonesty in the sports management business and his desire to work with fewer clients to produce better quality outcomes. 

So, from a workplace of walled-square spaces and cooped up workstations — barriers both physical and psychological — what factor can be built in to empower and support business owners and their employees to work independently, privately with a stealth-like focus on success?

The rise of the creatives

The discipline of creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is formed, and it’s the new currency in the marketplace. It’s a boundless beast, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimating the creative sector contributes an astonishing $86.7 billion to our GDP.

Along with this, creative professionals are a bourgeoning tribe. Between the 2011 and 2016 Census collections, creative employment grew by an average of 2.2 per cent per annum — nearly twice that of the Australian workforce. 

In principle and in practice, the creative sector has the potential to be one of the key economic engines for growth, and based on forecasts, it’s more than able to take on a similar moniker from the tech innovation space, claiming its own game-changing ‘Silicon Valley’ effect on business.

Creatives are permeating professional services that are beyond the traditional spaces of design, advertising, marketing, media and entertainment. In a time of disruption (and that’s not going away any time soon), doesn’t every business, no matter the category, need the ability to think literally, laterally, convergently and divergently? And who is best fit to provide these services?

The last few years has seen big consulting groups, including the likes of PricewwaterhousCoopers, Deloitte and KPMG, acquire many a creative company and creative talent to boost their capabilities and ways of working. Plus, we’ve seen the emergence of the chief creative officer in business and in the boardroom. 

But small businesses and startups don’t necessarily have the luxury of acquiring creative agencies or hiring chief creative officers, so how they can incorporate ‘creativity’ in their everyday?

1. Re-frame what ‘creativity’ is, and ‘who is creative’

There is a misconception that you must be an artist, designer or musician to be ‘creative’, and that ‘creativity’ involves an artistry.

Creativity at its heart is the ability to imagine and generate ideas. This is the faculty all humans share, and it’s what distinguishes us from other creatures and machines. Problem solving is looking at challenges and opportunities from different perspectives, being resourceful, being ridiculous and imagining what’s possible. 

Give yourself permission to give it a go.

2. Step away from the computer or device

We’ve convinced ourselves that Google and Pinterest have all the answers — they don’t, especially if you’re seeking something new and novel. 

There has been significant research to prove that we are our most creative in times of idleness. It can seem daunting to give yourself some time out, but it is in those moments of walking, watching out a window, or taking a shower that your brain gets to its most creative. 

When you let your mind wander (remember daydreaming?) your brain takes your experiences, emotions and all sorts of information and inputs, and it starts to form valuable connections, which in turn becomes solutions and ideas.

3. Find your sense

Tuning into your preferred processing sense is a way to explore and unpack your ideas in greater detail. But what is your preferred processing sense? 

Some of the most common approaches I’ve come across during my career, including vocalisation (talking through ideas aloud); writing (re-expressing concepts through the written word); and visualisation (flow charts, Venn diagrams and even emoji sentences). 

By using these techniques, in real time, you’ll see your ideas progress and take further shape.

4. Walk on the wild side

As adults we’ve been well trained in the art of reasoning, often of the conventional and anti-risk style. We can discard any crazy ideas at first glance, because ‘why would you?’ To which I say, “why not?”

Give yourself time to entertain the wild ones. Transform ridicule and doubt to belief and intention. How could you make it happen?

5. Do something, not nothing

You’ve imagined what’s possible, now it’s time to put it in action. If you’re a super go-getter, you’ll throw yourself in the deep end. For many other small businesses and startups, where time, money and resources are limited, I say: start small. But start!

If your idea is to evolve your social media presence, start with one channel. Take it one post at a time and see how things go. Learn, build on the experience and keep at it. From little things, big things can grow.

As we progress with 2020 and into a new decade, the zeitgeist is telling me not that traditional creative professions will reign, but rather creativity will be democratised and re-defined. Creativity will be a mindset expected of all of us. 

At the core, it is the freedom and expectation of unlearning, learning, open problem solving, exploration and looking at things from different perspectives to arrive in new places. Ideas can and will really come from anywhere.

NOW READ: Why human creativity could shine in the future robot-driven workplace

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