A lot of people don't think creativity and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. They see entrepreneurs as stereotypical business-types on the lookout for a multi-million dollar exit.
But the way I see it, creativity is an essential tool for any entrepreneur.
Creativity isn't just about coming up with ideas. It's about being able to adapt to new circumstances, navigate uncertainty, and find solutions as problems arise.
All startups have to evolve over time as the landscape changes. Maybe your brand isn't communicating the right emotions and you need to adjust it. Perhaps your UI isn't performing well enough and it needs a makeover. Maybe you even need to come up with new ways to secure funding.
Doing all of these things requires creativity.
A startup's success is based on its ability to pivot.
Creativity is the key to producing new ideas and processes. Sometimes entrepreneurs get caught up in the success of their initial idea. They feel it's so amazing that they never have to be creative again.
The entrepreneurs who really thrive and succeed are the ones who can use their creativity over and over--the ones who can pivot to scale the company or outlast a competitor.
The very first idea you come up with is often just a transition into another idea. In a startup, things change all the time. Adapting to circumstances and moving on to the next idea is just part of business.
But years ago, a startup was just a small business. It would take five or ten years to grow a solid foundation and then the company could scale upwards. Today, startups still begin small, but now they take an injection of capital that compresses that scaling time frame. Five or ten years turns into one or two.
And that compressed time frame ensures the company will go through changes, often very quickly. You have to make sure that you're creative enough to rise to the challenge when that happens.
Creative entrepreneurs bring unconventional ideas to the table.
If everyone is doing something the same way, conventional thinking lead you to the same process. You have to think creatively and challenge the standard procedures if you want to succeed.
Disruption is bred from that creativity. Look at the way Apple changed how we think about phones. Before the iPhone, everyone had a similar mental image of a phone. You knew what a phone looked like and what it did.
Then Apple came along and changed that concept forever. When you hear "phone" you think of something shaped like a screen.
That's the type of creativity I'm talking about. I think most entrepreneurs are actually creative by nature. They're curious about how things are done, and what they can do to improve on the process.
But standing out from the crowd takes a creative approach.
Success as a startup requires you to show people that you're different than your competitors in some way. You have to stand out.
Back when I was designing for Crashlytics, they were just a startup trying to help app developers figure out when and why their apps crashed.
Then they went and completely changed the way people loaded an SDK for an app. In the past it was a complex and frustrating process. But the Crashlytics team created a drag and drop experience that was utterly amazing. People began tweeting about how much they loved the process, how much better it was than the status quo, and what a relief it was to have this option.
It was revolutionary, and Crashlytics was eventually acquired by Twitter. Their creative solution to a widespread problem was the basis of their success.
Creativity is about pushing your potential and never settling.
A lot of entrepreneurs end up getting a little too comfortable with their day-to-day business. They get distracted by the daily routine.
And that's dangerous. Just because your business is doing fine, that doesn't mean it can't do better. Sometimes sitting back allows a competitor to innovate and put you out of business with a more creative solution.
My advice? Never settle. Even if you're happy with your business. Always keep thinking about how you can improve your process, your product, your knowledge. Keep your eyes and ears open for new ideas, new ways to run your business.
When applied to a problem, creativity is unbeatable.
But creativity isn't just a flash of inspiration. It's an asset, and sometimes it will fail even the most creative designers, artists, or writers. The solution is to continue working on the problem--to iterate until you have it right.
Sometimes it may only take a couple attempts. Other times it will take days of struggle. But you can't settle. If you know you can do better, you have to continue working on it. Even if that means redoing a logo 15 to 20 times or spending days deciding on the right brand color combination.
Startups that are flexible about their product, that are open to change--those are the ones that succeed. That's why being able to adapt and work creatively to find openings and continue improving is essential for any entrepreneur.
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