Kick-start your creativity for a competitive advantage

Here are five creativity kick-starts to help you and your organization

Are you a local business in Clark County trying to keep pace with industry trends? Are you striving to stay ahead of and stand out from the competition?

You’re not alone.

Many businesses are working to gain sustainable, long‐term competitive advantage. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world and crowded marketplace, it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish your organization from the competition.

But there is a solution to help break through that clutter — creativity.

“82 percent of companies recognize there is a strong connection between creativity and business results. Those that actively foster creative thinking outperform their rivals in revenue growth, market share and competitive leadership,” according to a recent report by Adobe and Forrester Consulting.

What exactly do we mean when we say “creativity?” Well, it doesn’t mean being a fine artist, though artists are indeed creative. Nor does it mean you need to trade your professionalism for ping pong tables and beer in the break room; though that does sound like a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Simply, creativity is the ability to look at a problem and solve it in a unique way. This is becoming a requirement to grow and survive in today’s competitive marketplace. In fact, according to a 2016 World Economic Forum report, creativity will be a necessary asset for anyone working in 2020. So, don’t wait to start flexing your creative muscles. If you do, it might be too late to gain the competitive edge.

Fear not — this doesn’t mean doom and gloom. Regardless of expertise, product or service, you can foster fresh, creative thinking and unlock your potential for economic growth.

Let’s get going. Here are five creativity kick‐starts to help you and your organization get the ball rolling:

1. Question. Be curious and ask questions. Don’t make the assumption that because something worked in the past, it will continue to work in the future. Creative thinking yields new solutions to challenges by redefining the problem and finding a new perspective. Questioning can help open your mind to different, more innovative approaches.

2. Get Unstuck. Many struggle with the “blank page” syndrome — the frustrating situation where you draw a complete blank when faced with a challenge. To combat this, try a change in perspective or environment, which can shift how you see an issue and encourage the creative juices to flow. This might be a walk along the river, a run on a trail or even taking a different route to work during your commute. This unstructured time encourages ideas to organically incubate, allowing you to return to your desk refreshed and ready to creatively tackle your next challenge.

3. Brainstorm. For this rapid idea generator, define the challenge and set a time limit — 20‐30 minutes is plenty of time. This practice is all about transferring numerous ideas out of your head and documenting them for consideration. The beauty of brainstorming is it can be a solo activity or with conducted within a group. Either way can yield rich concepts to work with. You don’t need to be a creative genius to be successful at this, but it’s helpful to know how your team works. Visual people will prefer to quickly sketch out their thoughts or create a mind map, where verbally focused folks may prefer to start with a list of words that are relevant to the challenge. Just remember, ideas at this stage aren’t meant to be judged or evaluated, and you shouldn’t expect perfection. The goal is to generate a large pool of ideas from which to draw.

As Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry Linus Pauling said: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

4. Stay Flexible. No, we don’t mean physically. Though you wouldn’t be the first person to come up with the “next great idea” during a yoga session. Rather, be open and flexible to new trains of thought that might improve a process or product. When discussing a new idea, instead of saying, “That won’t work because…” try responding with, “Maybe, but what if… .” Add to the conversation with new thoughts on how the idea could work, even if it is unconventional. Actually, unconventional is great.

5. Cluster. Once you have gathered your ideas, it helps to step back and review them. Keep an eye out for patterns or themes that emerge. At this stage, cluster or categorize these different thoughts into smaller, meaningful groups. Last, narrow down to the most viable ideas:

    • Select the top three ideas in each category.
    • Identify pros and cons for each of the top ideas.
    • Consider the best and worst case scenario for each.
    • Review the options and zero in on the unique idea that makes the most sense to pursue.

Practice these steps and you will advance toward developing creative, fresh ideas. Then you can to focus on how to put them into action—which is where true innovation lies. But that is a topic for another article.

Lori Reed is owner of Washougal-based design firm Reed Creative, helping clients across the country succeed by being more creative and compelling in their approach to reaching their target audience. Reed can be reached at info@reedcreative.com or (360) 210-4004.

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