For America to maintain its place as a leading world economy, we need to get back to our broad-based entrepreneurial roots. Creativity can be considered a numbers game: When more of us are generating creative ideas, better ideas are discovered, and we need our best ideas now more than ever.
Duke University professor and author Carl Nordgren says that a creatively entrepreneurial revolution has been brewing for years. Even corporate leadership is calling for this revolution, as is evident by the results of a study of 1,500 CEOs by IBM. It found the No. 1 employee-trait they valued to successfully navigate an increasing complex world is creativity.
"It's basic to the human condition to be creatively entrepreneurial, to see problems as opportunities, and to see those opportunities as a chance to make things better," says Nordgren. "If you spend 30 minutes with a four-year-old you will be reminded of how natural it is to use imagination and creativity to navigate this world. There is all kinds of research that shows how inherently creative we are."
Studies show 98% of us are born to this world as creative geniuses at divergent thinking, but that only 3% of us score as creative geniuses at divergent thinking by the time we are 23 years old.
"We've been deceiving ourselves for centuries in believing that creativity is a gift to the common few," says Nordgren. "Too many of us allow those qualities to lie dormant, but we are born creatively entrepreneurial beings."
In his quest to bring America back to its entrepreneurial roots, Nordgren has been participating in this creatively entrepreneurial revolution for years now and has recently offered it a name: Creative Populism. The Creative Populist movement is about each and every one of us cultivating our ability to be creatively entrepreneurial.
For the CEO, it means nurturing a culture where the age-old battle of the creatives vs. the suits comes to an end so that developing creatively entrepreneurial talent throughout the organization becomes a top priority. For the individual, it means intentionally developing the qualities we all need to identify opportunity and build value and create change from the bottom up.
Nordgren has been helping individuals and businesses get back to their entrepreneurial roots through his business advisory services as well as through TEDx talks and guest lecturers at universities and businesses throughout the nation. He has also written Welcome to the Creative Populist Revolution, which serves as a guide book for those determined to build their creatively entrepreneurial abilities.
To start your journey to revitalize your creatively entrepreneurial genius Nordgren offers these tips:
Customer Generosity: Ask yourself, why would the marketplace ever be more generous with you than you are with the marketplace? Many in the small business community feel they must never leave a dollar on the table, that in order to grow they must grab everything they can. Customers who feel you are being generous with them will be generous in return—referring new customers, staying loyal, and purchasing more from you.
Employee Generosity: Don't expect your employees to be more generous with your company than your company is to them. A company's creative ambitions mean they need commitment, not just involvement, from their employees. So the company must be committed to employees, and to be effective commitment must include the ability for employees to benefit from the value they are creating financially. You must show them that they aren't just cutting stone for you, but helping you build a cathedral that they will be honored in.
Generosity of Spirit: Be generous with your ideas and the ideas of people around you-support one another in creativity. Be willing to help others nurture and grow their ideas by having a generous spirit and allowing them the opportunity to stumble a time or two before they get it right. This is especially true for company leadership, if your company culture is one that automatically shuts down ideas that are not perfect, you will not have a large influx of ideas.
Worry less about being right and more about allowing truth to emerge. Be willing to listen to employees and implement a culture of humility where employees are encouraged to bring ideas and everyone is encouraged to practice the art of continuous improvement, itself a humble process.
Humble leaders know that as soon as they have reached the peak of a newly discovered mountain a competitor will be at their heels. In dynamic situations, it's sooner than later that something unexpected occurs, so flexible thinking is more creative, more productive, than determined knowing.
Play engages the imagination and nurtures the budding creative entrepreneur. Play is fun. When you are playing you aren't in any hurry for the discovery process to be over, so you won't settle for the first "good enough" idea that comes along. When we are lost in play we see the world differently than when we are analytically exact—both are needed to grow a creatively entrepreneurial venture.
Experiencing beauty is one of the most refreshing experiences in the world to most people.
These fast-paced times place extraordinary stresses on us. But we can't be fully creative and entrepreneurial when too much anxiety is disrupting our performance capacities. Spend time in the presence of beauty—to simply be present—the point isn't trying always to evaluate the nature of it.
To solve the complex problems and make a real impact you have to allow yourself this time. Many entrepreneurs spend so much time with their eyes on the prize that they miss the opportunities right in front of their face. Keep your eyes open to the beauty in life—and in your business—and your ability to see the gems of opportunity in the market will be far greater.
These four creatively entrepreneurial behaviors are at the core of the "creative populist" message: That each and every one of us has the capacity to be creatively entrepreneurial. It is a message and a movement that ends the age-old battle of the creatives vs. the suits so that developing creatively entrepreneurial talent throughout organizations becomes priority No. 1 for Corporate America.
Imagine a company filled with employees who perform each inch and every minute of daily organizational life, as well as service and sales performances, with a creatively entrepreneurial mindset. What could they do for your company? Sit back and enjoy the beauty of that.