Creativity is just for those Agency types, right?

Actually, creativity is for you and your business!

The business challenge we are all facing is how to get more for less, how we can keep our level of business at least as good as last year’s and the year before. Impossible, I hear you say, we just need to knuckle down, work harder and carry on riding the storm.

Well, some will go down this route.  And these businesses will probably be pigeon-holing creativity as something their agencies do and ‘we can’t afford them, can we?’ Wrong. Creativity is about you, not just your Marketing or NPD agency.

Creativity is your competitiveness. If you are doing exactly the same as everyone else, then why would anyone use you? Are you quicker, smarter, cheaper or higher quality than the competition? Where is your advantage? Think about it, work it out, market the hell out of it and sell it.
With your current clients and customers you’d better start thinking creatively too! They are going to be faced with the same economic pressures as you, and they will be looking at their suppliers to see what value you are adding and many will be rationalising the amounts they spend. So, what is the Return on Investment from continuing to use you? Put yourself in their shoes! Work it out and make sure they know.

What about getting the most out of your own people? How do organisations release the creativity of their people? As sure as eggs is eggs, business leaders don’t have all the answers, and the best businesses manage and lead their people in a way that empowers them to want to come up with the ideas, develop plans and own their implementation.

There are organisations that have developed a culture of creativity, like Toyota for instance, where it has become part of their DNA, but they are in the minority. Why? Well there are many reasons; a lack of understanding about how to create the right environment for creativity, no reward and recognition system linked to ideas, no big picture provided for people to see exactly what they need to impact and perhaps most importantly, leaders feeling reluctant to spend the time helping their people to think through their ideas in the context of local team-based challenges, because they think nothing will come of it.

So how do we release the creativity in our organisations? Here is a 10-step guide for starters:

  • How dull is your office space? Think about the environment people work in. Does your office space have magnolia walls, grey cabinets and desk dividers between people or is there a bit more thought behind it? It doesn’t have to cost more to create a better environment to work in.
  • Is your brain working in the right gear? The brain operates at four speeds. If we use the analogy of a car then in 1st gear we are asleep (the brain is at it’s slowest), 2nd gear we are waking up and nodding off and we often have ideas at this point, but often forget them. Move up to 4th gear and we are really motoring – we are in work mode, with loads to think about and achieve; not the speed to be creative. The one when we are most creative is, to continue with the car analogy, when the brain is in “neutral”. This is when we are idling; in the shower, the gym, going for a jog or cutting the lawn. The brain is under no stress or pressure and guess what, that great ideas just springs to mind. The trick is to either catch those ideas and feed them into work, or to create more time at work to chill out and come up with ideas.
  • You’re having a laugh. Well, we should be: we are more likely to come up with ideas when we are relaxed and having fun. Start team meetings and workshops off with something fun and you may be surprised how much more you get out of it.
  • Take the stress and pressure off. High challenge, low threat is the ideal environment to foster creativity, and telling people we’ve got an hour to brainstorm new ideas for one of the big challenges we are facing, is unlikely to cut it.
  • Turn the music up. Music is conducive to creativity and relaxation and Baroque music in particular.Get the drinks out!
  • Hydration is crucial to clear thinking. Surveys of school children has shown that those that are drinking enough water perform at a much higher standard (mental performance can increase by 10% when fully hydrated)
  • Cut out the muffins! Well, not all the time, but a rush of sugar will give us all an instant high followed by a low. The same goes for that graveyard slot after lunch; if you want to come up with great ideas, get around the table first thing in the morning.
  • What’s the big issue? People not only need the big picture of what you are trying to achieve as a business and in your local area, but they also need a focus for their ideas. This could be a problem that you need to address or an opportunity you need to grasp.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something left field: Since actions will speak louder than words with your teams, look at using new creative techniques as part of proven brainstorming processes.
  • Follow the core rules (of brainstorming that is). Brainstorming is generally done really badly. Here are some simple rules: go for quantity, no criticism allowed, the wackier the better, think of opposites, think what if we do nothing, flip chart the output and then vote on the best ideas to take forward.

So, there we are. Get creative, get your people creative and start solving those problems and grabbing those opportunities. A final thought: you should think of the brain as a muscle (not just a tired, inflexible organ!); the more you use it to be creative, the more creative it will be the next time you need to use it.