So what is creativity? Since we can’t develop a skill we can’t define, the following list offers a few common characteristics of businesses that value creativity. Any of these may be adopted and studied by you and your business as a way of working through issues and stimulating growth. Maximizing uses of materials you have at hand – There are no special things to buy. Being creative is applying your natural self to what is around you. Dane Rudhyar said “…to create is only to reveal what essentially is.” Your business need not invest in new equipment or expensive consultations. All that is required is strong dedication to solutions. Superimposing or synthesizing or combining any two or more things in new ways – You have heard it said, there’s nothing new under the sun. Creativity is not so much making something totally new as it is manifesting new uses of things. Noticing – One of the very first practices in strengthening your creativity is sharpening your perceptions. A profound and lifelong effort, this is nonetheless something that will begin to pay off almost immediately. How to become more perceptive? Here’s one way: Regularly place your attention on one of your senses – hearing, looking, smelling, touching, or tasting. Decide which of these to focus on for a day, and continuously remind yourself to ask, what am I hearing/seeing/smelling, etc.? Objectively experience the sensations; this is about noticing, not judging.
The creative business adapts its product regularly in response to consumer needs and wants. It identifies these client preferences by remaining constantly alert to the world around them. Welcoming problems and facing issues squarely – To be creative is to be courageous, to thrive on opportunities for growth. Problems most often indicate that growth is knocking at the door. The creative person or business sees problems as ways to progress. Problems are seen as opportunities in the creative environment, and they are enthusiastically embraced as worthy challenges. When an issue arises, the creative business appreciates the chance to interface its core value with everyday realities, refine its operations, and continuously strengthen its relationship to its market.
Allowing thought – The most unforgiving critic in our life dwells in our own mind. Another early practice in developing creativity is consciously exiling the critic and saying ‘yes’ to your own thinking. Carefully track your mental processes: do you almost never allow your first choice? Do you apply all sorts of derogatory labels to your ideas? While careful choice-making is appropriate in many instances of life, we need not think all impulsive thought is bad. At selected times, it’s healthy to dwell exclusively on impulses, as a way of understanding our core selves and creative potential. In the same way, in business, the full blown brainstorming session in which all ideas from all quarters are equally valid must precede any strategic planning, or else the proverbial Box is never opened and no one dreams of going outside.
Allowing expression – This means being open to the expressions of others to the fullest extent possible. It also means allowing yourself to express. How often do you permit yourself to express with abandon? Such behavior is inappropriate in many instances, but never allowing yourself to completely let it out is unhealthy in the extreme. Whether it be in your business marketing, on the dance floor, or singing in the shower, turning loose your creative expression with a no-holds-barred approach at least once a month will ensure increased mental flexibility and self confidence. Expression is a monster with at least two heads nowadays. On one hand, we are a repressed America, ruled by fads, money, and national paranoia. On the other hand, in the digital age we enjoy a vastly expanded range of vehicles for expression, and we love to utilize them. How best and most effectively to express is a serious issue for any business.
Generosity – So much of creativity has to do with getting over yourself, but that’s another article. For now, suffice it to say that generosity is in the eye of the beholder, while the agent that is being generous has only stayed passionately committed to a creative solution.
Awareness – Akin to Noticing, awareness is noticing on a more general plane, or coming to realizations based on things you have noticed. Awareness is the sum of what you know. The more you know, the more raw material you have with which to create. Social entrepreneurship is probably the best example we have of business awareness, though any business that evidences a care for the common good is practicing awareness and thereby maximizing their creativity.
Openness to the dark side – You’ve known for months there’s a problem, something’s gone awry. But the strength of institutions is such that your business rolls on as if the problem can’t affect it. You’re beginning to think it’s possible to get by on a broken vehicle. And then suddenly everything falls apart, the new widget offered by the competition catches on, and you’re bankrupt. The creative business, as an entity committed to solving problems, knows how to turn adversity to advantage before it defeats them. Cultivating delight – More than just a positive attitude, delight is a more ecstatic appreciation for all the little things. While this may be impossible to achieve in every waking moment (and clearly disingenuous when faked), allowing the little thrills in life to give you momentous pleasure will develop your capacity to identify key opportunities. Next time a passing scene out your car window captures your attention, give it more than a nod! Think about it, draw a little sketch, tell a friend about it or make up a ditty. Let this inspiration enter you and let it delight. Such activity has limitless potential for enlivening your business.
Holism – Creative businesses may be highly focused or specialized, but they maintain a global perspective. They recognize that their work is dependent upon many others, and that many others in turn are dependent on their product. They understand themselves as a link in a complex and never-ending helix. They grow and progress by increasing specialization within a global awareness. Willingness to play – Not many adults are willing to play. Ever. Isn’t this strange? We play with such unselfconscious dedication when young, and then simply never go back there after we’re 20 or so. Aren’t you impressed whenever you see an adult who can truly play with kids? It’s a rare thing. Shouldn’t we grown-ups be humble enough to re-discover the benefits of play? Those who do are that much more liberated as creative beings and successful businesspeople. Very often, their businesses are cutting-edge leaders in their fields.