By Maurie Cashman
Inspiring creativity must be deliberate, intentional and process-driven if it is going to take hold as part of your company’s culture. Many business owners consider themselves to be creative. Some are. But I believe that for a majority of owners, creativity does not come naturally.
“Take the lead to inspire creativity and mesh your creatives with the rest of your staff.”— Joel Garfinkle
Let’s take a look at five factors that I have found to be common in organizations that inspire creativity:
Creativity is Rarely Inspired at the Top
You do not have to be a creative owner to have a creative business culture. As a matter of fact, I would argue that it is likely not a benefit to have a creative person at the top of an organization. The responsibility of the owner is to create the right culture, not to execute. Strong owners understand their limitations, including their duty to lead the organization on many fronts. There is rarely time in the day for a business owner to think creatively.
The owner is also further removed from the day to day operations from which creative ideas will often bubble up as a response to some problem. One of my first experiences with this was when I was managing a competitive analysis system in which we would analyze what we paid a farmer for his milk based on testing analysis and compare how we paid for his milk vs. how our competitors would pay. Often a competitor would be attempting to take a producer from us based on price. Our system would show how we compared based on all of the payment factors involved.
The problem was that it would take two to three weeks to get a report back from the mainframe computer system. By that time the producer had already jumped ship or the competition had changed their payment program again. I decided to take on this problem in conjunction with a couple of cooperative field managers. We were able to program the exact same analysis into an Excel format and shorten the time for a report from two weeks to less than ten minutes. That inspired creativity allowed us to not only understand our competitiveness at all times – it allowed us to go on the offensive against our competitors who did not have such a program.
Find a Few Creative People
Unless you are an advertising agency you probably can only stand to have a few truly creative people on your staff. Let’s face it, creative types march to a different drummer. Nine of ten ideas they have will not be successful. However, the one that is will make you extremely successful. The key is to find those people who really understand the business but are not constrained by the entrenched ways in which that business has always been done.
A mistake I often see in finding creative people is that owners look for them in the wrong places. They assume that because someone is in sales that they are creative. They assume that someone in accounting cannot possibly be creative. Wrong. Creative people can be found anywhere in your organization. The trick is determining who really is and who really isn’t.
Set Criteria for Inspirations
People who inspire creativity can take you in a lot of directions. Some of these will not be pathways you should embark on. It is important that, as the leader, you set clear criteria, expectations and boundaries in which your creative forces can operate. There is nothing that will shut down a person’s creativity faster than to have their ideas shot down quickly and seemingly without reason. Identify your creative individuals, involve them in setting your business direction and goals to gain buy-in and hold them to the strategies and goals to which you are driving.
Get an Outsider’s Perspective
It is often difficult to determine if you have the creativity on your team that you need, who is truly creative and which ideas are truly inspired. Sometimes creativity comes from outside the organization in the form of a trusted advisor. Often these folks can see things that you are too close to see. They will look at the business through a different lense, unfettered by the constraints of industry norms.
What Got You Here Won’t Keep You Here
As a business owner you have worked hard to build your business to the success you enjoy today. To many business owners change equates to risk. That is very understandable. However, not changing carries equal or greater risk. The organization is comfortable working in the domains of certainty and control, but innovation is done in the domain of uncertainty. All businesses and industries go through cycles. Business models must be re-invented and refreshed periodically if they are to remain relevant to their customers, suppliers and employees. To shun change is to invite atrophy.
By embracing a process for inspiring creativity, you can build the value of your business to make it possible to create the value required for a future ownership transition.
© 2016 Aspen Grove Investments, Inc.