Has innovation taken a back seat to daily tasks and short-term goals? Here's how to get your creativity back.
Do you feel like you've lost yourself in your business? What happened to that creative, freedom-loving person who launched that business with such a great vision in mind? She's still in there somewhere, I promise. And this may be a good time to find her. As we bring 2013 to an end, why not do a bit more than a year-end review? Don't simply evaluate your progress, goals, and strategies for the New Year--this is a good time to commit to cultivating your creative genius as well.
When entrepreneurs become too mired in the muck of their business a disconnect occurs between the creative, innovative self and your daily purpose. Visionary thinking gives way to things like daily trouble-shooting and product delivery, leaving entrepreneurs feeling less and less themselves as days, even years, go by. At that point, it's easy to fall into the belief that perhaps you're not so creative. You may begin to believe that your business growth can no longer rely on innovative concepts since just keeping your head above the water is hard enough.
But that's not true. The good news is that stimulating the visionary within doesn't have to take hours out of your day when you use these simple steps to reconnect.
1. Bust out of your routines.
Innovation is about seeing things in a different way. If your brain is accustomed to being on auto-pilot it's not exercising its capacity to innovate. Get out of your rut and wake up your right brain by going places that you normally wouldn't go, talking to new people, and doing simple things in a different way--like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. Visiting thought-provoking places like museums, art galleries, and the theatre will stimulate your creativity and open your mind. Even the simple act of taking a new route to work will help do the trick.
As a busy entrepreneur it's too easy to implement the ideas and solutions that first come to mind, but those aren't always your best creative work. Wake up your brain by pushing it to find better, more innovative ideas. Since it's easier to solve other people's problems, start with fictitious situations and challenges. "How could a new amusement park in this area attract thousands of people?" Or "How can that grocery store improve its image and boost sales?" Come up with a list of 10 ideas, then keep going. The most creative answers usually come when you think you're tapped out. Can you get to 50? You can brainstorm while you shower, work out, or walk to work. Once you're in the habit of allowing all of your ideas to surface, no matter how crazy they may seem, turn your attention to your own business. Don't pressure yourself, you've been training your creative brain to step up and dig deep. It won't let you down.
3. Don't stop at one idea.
Too often brainstorming sessions are limiting because we believe that we must expand on just that one brilliant idea. The other less appealing concepts are left on the cutting room floor, but you never know what you're leaving behind. Some ideas may be worth further exploration. Cull those out and either assign people or carve out the time yourself to do some research and give the idea more thought.
4. Let go of excuses.
Sure, creative ideas are great but you don't have the time and money to implement them, right? That may be true but these types of excuses prevent most entrepreneurs from succeeding. A lack of resources can be a good thing because it will push you to get even more creative if you let it. Look at the concept of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding platforms, for instance. These were born of a need for more resources for entrepreneurs. You never know what genius solutions may come your way if you remove the lack mentality and open your mind to all of the possibilities.
5. Banish doubt and fear.
Easier said than done, I know. But those gremlins in your head only limit your creative capacity and exhaust your body and mind. Be playful with your innovation process, taking it too seriously will invite doubt and self-sabotage. Sure, not all of your ideas will be brilliant but don't beat yourself up for it. I seriously doubt that even Steve Jobs expected to come up with genius ideas 100% of the time. You're looking for that gem; remember, they're rare.
6. Engage others.
A single person can do some pretty cool things, a collaborative community can achieve greatness. Visionaries typically don't act alone. If you don't have employees think of your mentors, creative friends and family, peers, and your coach as collaborative partners. People want to help, but you have to ask. Set up meetings, buy the pizza, and have fun. Your unofficial partners may be willing to carry out tasks, do a little research, introduce you to influencers, and certainly offer emotional support.
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka