Creativity is the fuel that can turbo-charge your business. Creativity can solve cash shortages, industry-wide slumps and the Wednesday doldrums. Creativity can zhuzh up even the most boring and staid of businesses.
Please note that “creative” doesn’t mean artistic, weird or craftsy. Not everyone is artistic, but everyone is creative.
Creativity is the art of solving problems in a new or unusual way.
That’s a skill all of us have.
(BTW, if you’ve ever wondered what your “Zone of Genius” is, it’s most likely the area in which you most easily come up with new or unusual solutions. In fact, problem-solving in your Zone of Genius is so easy for you, you may not even think it’s a thing—but it’s TOTALLY a thing.)
One of the easiest ways to increase your creativity is to deliberately combine unexpected elements and see what new solutions magically present themselves.
Not sure where to begin?
Try this fun strategy:
First, make a list of five tasks you’ve been putting off.
(I know – you’ve got a zillion. But for now, just write down the first five that pop to mind.)
My list might be:
- Write a new blog post
- Reach out to affiliate partners
- Review monthly expenses
- Start creating slides for a new keynote
- Work on a new book proposal
Now, make a separate list of five aspects of yourself that you like.
Work swiftly and without pondering. (We don’t need your BEST qualities here – this isn’t a dating profile — just five things about you that are true and don’t bug you about yourself.)
For example, I might write:
- I love to read
- My grandmother was Swedish
- I grew up in Chicago
- I have two cats
- I love buying myself new lipstick
Now, none of these things are particularly wow-worthy on their own, but what if I combined them with my to-do list in some way?
Again, working swiftly and going with “first idea, best idea” (no second-guessing or over-thinking allowed) I came up with this:
Write a new blog post + I love to read = maybe base the post on a new book I read recently
Reach out to affiliate partners + My grandmother was Swedish = maybe send them a gift basket from IKEA
Review monthly expenses + I grew up in Chicago = maybe channel my inner “thrifty Midwesterner” as I look for items to cut
Start creating slides for new keynote + I have two cats = maybe base my presentation on kitty memes
Work on new book proposal + I love buying myself new lipstick = maybe if I complete my chapter summaries by Friday, I’ll order that tube of Ruby Woo…
Suddenly I find myself feeling kind of jazzed about doing stuff that I was resisting just a few minutes ago.
This isn’t to say that I’m going to follow these ideas exactly, but I can use them as a jumping off point.
If nothing else, I can crack myself up (kitty memes?!?! hilarious!) — and there’s nothing like a good laugh in the middle of the day to keep things lively.
You can also improve the creativity of your team by simply asking them to name one or more things about themselves (and again, the easy, obvious stuff is fine: cultural heritage, family makeup, animal companions, favorite pastimes – all good) before you begin the work of your meeting, and occasionally reference their answers as the discussion moves along.
So let’s say your marketing team of three discloses that Jim’s family of origin is Japanese, Mary is a Mom of three boys and Sally loves to sing.
Just sharing that information with each other will allow them to more easily access those parts of themselves as they work, and that diversity contributes to more innovative solutions.
This is the magic part: simply reminding people of their own complexity can contribute to greater integrative complexity, which leads to better ideas.
Integrative complexity is an “information-processing tendency is related to one’s capacity and willingness to acknowledge the legitimacy of competing perspectives on the same issue and to forge conceptual links among these perspectives.” (kellogg)
In other words, when people are inspired by their own dynamics, they come up with more interesting, creative and unusual ideas.
Plus, there is a human benefit.
A little revealing of the personality can lead to stronger, better connections between people.
Once you find out that Mean Jean in accounting is not only from your hometown but also shares your interest in beekeeping, you have a whole new way of relating to one another, now don’t you?
My experience is that when people are treated like functionaries, they get bored and restless.
Who wants to feel like a cog in a wheel, right?
But when people get to bring their whole selves to work – when they get the idea that who they are as an individual matters – they are more likely to feel appreciated and stay engaged.
So the next time you find yourself facing something boring, or resisting a tedious task, ask yourself, “What unlikely element of ME can I mix in here, in order to get a different result?”
About the Author
Sam Bennett is a critically acclaimed author, speaker, and creativity strategist guiding artists, business owners, and companies increase their productivity and leverage their genius.
Sam’s work has earned praise from experts and leaders around the globe like Seth Godin, David Neagle, and Keegan-Michael Key of The Key & Peele Show, using her decades of experience as a professional actor and branding consultant to unlock the creativity within others and teach them how to use it successfully within their business or career.