How to embrace creativity in your small business

Don’t run from your creativity

The world of business is cut-throat and moves at breakneck speed. If you can’t keep up, you get left behind. Creativity, imagination, the ability to think outside the box and to back and own the risks you take are highly sought after skills, especially in 2019.

Creativity. It’s one of those words that scares people, that they run away from or that they think is not theirs to have. Creativity is seen as this mystical thing that seems to float around in the heads of a “magically chosen few”, the force behind our favourite TV, shows, movies, music, books and even those advertisments we all get sick of seeing or find ridiculously abstract where the link between its concept and the actual product they’re trying to sell you is really confusing.

I know so many people who see themselves as distinctly not creative. Any time they catch a whiff of needing or wanting to be, they’ll throw their hands up in defeat, sigh and solemnly declare with relative levels of discomfort that they’re not a creative person or don’t have a creative brain. Instead, they’ll firmly position themselves at the so-called other end of the spectrum, as clear cut numbers and strategy people. But to me, the idea that creativity exists in opposition to those skills is inherently flawed. Though, before we take a deep dive into why I think that way, let’s step back and try to define exactly what is meant by ‘creativity’ (at least according to the dictionary)

The Cambridge Dictionary says that “creativity is the ability to produce or use original or unusual ideas.”

Sit with that for a minute.

OK. You good? Let’s go.

With this definition in hand and my own ideas around creativity, let me put something to you. Every single person reading this (yes, even you) has been creative in some way, shape or form from the time we were babies to now. The fact that toddlers can be put on the floor, handed some blocks and build worlds or babble to themselves in words we can’t understand, effectively creating their own language, means that being creative is an innate thing. We don’t learn it and we can’t be taught it. We just are. Every single person, as a kid has had the experience of needing to come up with some silly little game to entertain themselves on a long car trip, had to draw a picture or create something imaginative whether just in their own heads or physically speaking to keep boredom at bay. Creativity and imagination are the building blocks for making friends on the playground, for learning to think for yourself and sometimes even for getting good marks at school.

So, where does it go? This innate desire we have to make, create, play, build or colour outside the lines? What happens to it?

Well, we get told to grow up. We get told that colouring outside the lines is bad and messy. We get told that not everyone is good at things and that’s OK. Until of course, it goes that step further and we’re taught to believe that if you’re not good enough at something and poised to have success from it (read: earn money) then we should leave behind and focus our skills on practical, responsible things that will keep us secure and earning enough to be ‘happy.’ But we all know that money doesn’t buy happiness, don’t we?

I know all of that sounds very depressing and world-weary but don’t worry. All’s not lost. If you’ve let your creative muscles atrophy, there are ways to get them strong again. Part of that is changing the way you think and reconsidering what you classify as creative, particularly in the adult world.

Here are a few examples:

Decide what to wear every day and come up with something to cook for dinner every night? Guess what, that’s creative.

Doodle mindlessly while you’re on the phone or waiting for a meeting? Creative.

Turn data into colourful and easy to understand graphs?

Transform hard numbers into bits and pieces anyone can understand? Creative.

How do these broader definitions of what being creative can encompass make you feel? Hopefully, rebranding these everyday things as creative exercises that help strengthen the muscles of imagination most of us abandon in adulthood is liberating and freeing for you. Hopefully, it helps you to realise that creativity and its various pursuits are not scary or impossible or need to be perfect. Instead, they’re exciting and in reach, with space for messiness and experimenting.

So, how do you take those skills and broader definitions of creativity into the workplace?

Well, as a boss, create a good environment both physically and metaphorically:

  • Use space, colour and light
  • Have furniture that is easy to move, comfortable and can be oriented for multiple people to use at once. Make it easy for people to work together
  • Build a rapport with your employees and give them the space to suggest things
  • Give them the freedom to run with ideas but build a safety net of trust so that if the idea doesn’t get off the ground, they feel comfortable to try again
  • Put practices in place that ensure the fallout from an idea not working isn’t massive, going to blow your budget or cause things to feel restrictive

On the flipside, as an employee:

  • Trust your gut and follow your instincts. The worst thing anyone can do when you bring them an idea is say ‘no’
  • If they do say no, don’t throw in the towel. Rework the idea and try again Keep yourself open to new ideas and looking at situations or problems from different angles
  • Create space for yourself to be creative. If you like cooking, painting, listening to music, reading, watching stuff, fashion etc, make time to do that. It will help you feel better and more in control, increase your productivity and get those creative juices flowing

you’ve got this, OK? Don’t run from creativity. Run towards it and embrace.