The dawn of a new year is the traditional time to revamp ourselves and our lives. But does your business need a makeover too? If your mailing list is not bursting at the seams, maybe it’s time to shake things up.
The pace of change in the business world is breathtaking.
Are your competitors moving relentlessly forward? Are your customers becoming ever more challenging to satisfy? We all know the answer to those questions!
Customers are increasingly savvy and demanding – they want experiences. They want ‘fresh’, ‘new’, ‘unique‘. They want to be entertained.
But at the same time they want higher perceived value and cheaper prices.
We need to work harder than ever to satisfy those needs and make a profit.
Our business needs to constantly adapt.
It’s Not About ‘Keeping up’. It’s About Survival.
Our old friend and creative thinker Edward de Bono put it rather well when he said :
“As competition intensifies, the need for creative thinking increases. It is no longer enough to do the same thing better . . . no longer enough to be efficient and solve problems.”
We also know that the cardinal sin in business and marketing is to be boring!
This means that we’re squeezed from all directions, needing to create ever more innovative products and services to keep our customers happy, and also market them in a fresh and clever way.
So what’s the solution?
We could take our cue from the musical ‘Chicago’: “razzle dazzle ’em and they’ll beg you for more!”
And this is where creativity comes in.
Is Your Business Stuck In The Stone Age?
Creativity in business is not only the domain of the artist, crafter, designer, blogger and so on.
It’s also necessary for businesses we would not think of as naturally ‘creative’ – accountants, lawyers, concrete manufacturers. All types of businesses now need to use creativity to gain a competitive advantage.
Even ordinary day-to-day tasks – such as finding a blog post topic or a new supplier of widgets – sometimes need a boost of creativity to sweep us along through the to-do list with less effort and angst.
And have you noticed that ‘creativity’ has definitely been the buzzword of the year?
Having branded myself as the ‘Creative Business Coach’ for many years, I would love to think I started the trend, but I don’t think I can take the credit for it.
Examples of creativity are all around, and sometimes it’s easy to feel that our business is missing something and we will struggle to be seen amongst the masses.
So, what is creativity exactly? And what does it have to do with business?
Just about everything, actually. But first things first.
What is Creativity?
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘creative’ is “involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something”.
Simply put, creativity means breaking out of ‘normal’ patterns and usual ways of seeing/doing things.
Creativity is needed for innovation, and we need constant innovation to improve and move our business forward so that it stands out in a sea of competition.
“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.” (George Lois)
The phenomena of Creativity and Innovation are actually as old as Time. To quote an unknown source, “the stone age didn’t end because they ran out of stones”!
But we haven’t tried to define and analyse them quite so closely until recent years.
However, there have been numerous studies on ‘creativity’. More than 40 different investigations show that creativity enhances mental health – so it is not only essential for our business but good for our personal health too!
How Do You Become More Creative?
OK, so we acknowledge that we need to become more creative, both for our own good and our business success. Where do we start?
Well, everyone is potentially creative. But, we might need to draw out (pun intended) our natural capability – or enhance it – to become everything we can be. Luckily this is not too difficult for individuals to do.
To Borrow A Phrase From L’Oreal – Here’s “The Science Bit”
Researchers at the University of California have discovered how anyone can train their brain to increase their creativity. It seems that when the frontal-lobe ‘gatekeeper’ relaxes, the brain is able to make more connections, paving the way for a ‘creative spark’ or flash of insight.
So, finding ways to distract the ‘gatekeeper’ and make more insightful connections is the key to boosting creativity. There are simple, practical ways to do this.
We can start by removing the blocks to creativity and allowing it to blossom.
The blocks may be caused by any number of daily occurrences such as severe time pressure, constant interruption, panic, anger.
Then there’s the fear, which can totally put a stranglehold on creativity if we let it.
Fear of making mistakes, fear of looking stupid. (Tell me about it! Do you know how long it’s taken me to write this post?)
And finally, criticism – of ourselves, our colleagues, our ideas.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” (Scott Adams)
Removing – or controlling – as many blocks as possible can pave the way for more productive brainstorming.
Could This Be The Secret Code To Unlocking Your ‘Unfair Advantage’?
The next step is to use ‘creativity enhancers,’ which help to boost our overall creativity and, in turn, make our business more competitive.
Here are just a few of the simple, everyday techniques we can employ (from my 20-point Creativity Checklist) based on the scientific research :
- The colour blue was found to double creative output. Don’t want to paint your office blue? Try adding blue accessories, flowers or stationery.
- Have a business problem to solve? Take a brisk walk in nature and allow your mind to wander freely. A view of the ocean particularly expands thinking.
- Brainstorm in front of a light bulb. This clichéd symbol of creativity actually does prompt flashes of insight!
- Combining a focused task (mulling over ideas for a blog post) with a mundane task (sorting out the sock drawer) flexes your creative ‘muscles’.
- Need to come up with an idea for a new product or service for your business? Take a shower. This is another cliché but is based on real evidence that the ‘gatekeeper’ brain relaxes.
- Focus your attention on one project until completed. Multi-taskers take 50% longer to complete a task and make 50% more errors (source: ‘Brain Rules’ by John Medina)
What Can A Bubble Bath Teach Us About Creativity? (It’s Not What You Think)
The good news is that to be creative in our business, we don’t always have to completely ‘reinvent the wheel’.
Maybe something new doesn’t need to be totally original – just new to that person (your audience, prospect, customer).
Often the most creative new products/ideas are those which combine two or more concepts from differing backgrounds into one.
To pick just one example from many – take the British cosmetic & skincare company ‘Soap & Glory.’
Nothing new about soap or bath products of course. But the makers have cleverly hooked into a growing trend for all things vintage, whilst being bang on trend.
They look backwards in time for their ethos and packaging, but also combine that with the current fashion for ‘punny’, sassy slogans – resulting in products with names such as ‘You Do The Bath’ and ‘Rich & Foamous’.
Add the ‘Endless Glove’ hand cream, the ‘Supercolour Fabulipsticks’ range and the ‘Sit Tight’ body-firming cream (!) and you have a fun, fresh, winning formula.
The creative spark runs throughout the ideas for the products themselves, the branding and the marketing as a whole.
They even have a ‘Wish List’ function enabling customers to save their favourite products and email the list to their friends & family requesting Christmas/holiday gifts! The former is not new – Amazon has done this for years. The latter is a newer and audacious idea, which no doubt results in their product sales skyrocketing around Holiday season.
Better still, the ‘Wish List’ sign up process includes an opt-in form, and – yes, you’ve guessed it – builds Soap and Glory’s mailing list, the Holy Grail for every self-respecting marketer.
We’re talking about physical products in this example, but the principles can be – and should be – translated to the promotion of online and electronic products too. Even to the branding/marketing of service businesses.
This is what creativity is about in practice: finding a growing trend, combining two (or more) concepts, translating something from one area to another, subtracting, adding or adapting something to come up with a unique idea that your customers will clamour for.
The bottom line is that if you want to add to your bottom line, your business needs to quench consumers’ insatiable appetite for ever more unique and ‘zingy’ shopping experiences.
Are you ready to give them what they crave?
“Ideas Are Like Rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” (John Steinbeck)
OVER TO YOU
Take a real business problem you need to solve or a project which needs creative input, have a go at using those ‘creativity enhancing’ techniques above, and let me know how you get on with giving your business a creative boost in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what great ideas you come up with!