Four things to get the creative juices flowing

Over the years I have had many people say to me “what a fantastic idea RedBalloon is…” often followed by the statement “I was going to do something like that” or “I wish I’d thought of it.”

Ideas and creativity are critical to the success of any venture. I was in Utah last week at an Entrepreneurs’ Organization conference and the opening speaker was serial entrepreneur Josh Linkner.

He opened his presentation with a US business story about the Dollarshaveclub.com (see launch video here). With just a $4,000 video budget the founder of this business has taken on Gillette (global giant with 70% market share for razors). His video has had close to 10 million views and his business is flying.

Quite simply, founder Michael Dubin used creativity to send a message that could not be ignored.

Creativity is the #1 most cited leadership skill needed – and speaker Josh Linkner shared with us his idea of the four steps to creativity:

1. Encourage courage – playing it safe is the riskiest strategy of all

Fear is the biggest blocker to creativity – we get in our own way. A way to counteract that is to celebrate new ideas without judgment.

Get curious, that is the fundamental building block of creativity. The ‘five why’ exercise could assist to uncover your curiosity. Ask ‘why’ five times in a row, rather than adding comment to the debate.

‘Role storming’ in character roles e.g. brainstorming as Madmen characters; when people are ‘acting in a role’ they may well come out of their shell.

Celebrate non-successes too, such as the Failure of the Year award.

2. Blank canvas – shed the past

Have you ever considered this question: ‘What are my competitors doing to put me out of business?’ And then consider the bigger question of ‘How would I put myself out of business?’ or ‘What is becoming obsolete, redundant, or stagnant in my business?’

Hunt for the ‘but we have always done it like this’ responses and then review and reinvent.

Use your edge in a more impactful way, or maybe focus on competing against big bad mean [imaginary] competitor.

3. Think small – small is the new big

Small companies: embrace risk, are urgent, create new ideas, are bottom-up, idea-centric, nimble and have a fire in the belly.

Big companies: avoid risk, move slowly, protect old ideas, are top-down, rules-centric, bureaucratic and complacent.

Now I personally think that Josh has made a mass generalisation – and that all small business and all big business are not all of these things. However, there is no doubt it is easier to be innovative in a small business than a larger one.

4. Run your own race – lead rather than follow

Stop following, look at the opposite of what is expected. In fact, much innovation can come from being counterintuitive.

There is no doubt that sitting still is not a strategy – and all business needs to constantly reinvent itself. After all who would ever have thought that Kodak, Borders, Britannica, Blockbuster or even Ansett would not be here today?

Could you take the two-hour creative challenge? That is, every week dedicate two hours to being creative. You will have a zero per cent drop in productivity. In fact, quite the opposite can happen as the act of creativity is very rewarding.

One of Australia’s outstanding entrepreneurs, Naomi has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.

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