A stuffed giraffe, a paper clip and being a more creative business
There are several circumstances that provoke a fist pump whilst at my desk, providing, of course, that no one is looking. The most recent was all down to a blog by LinkedIn, entitled ‘The Most In-demand Hard and Soft Skills of 2019’ which had analysed the skills most looked for by businesses when looking to recruit.
It was the number one spot in soft skills that elicited such spontaneous joy from me: creativity. It has long been my absolute conviction that creativity is the driver of business. What propels and sustains growth? Ideas. What creates a competitive advantage? Ideas. What evolves your offering? Ideas. You get the idea. At least I hope you do, because ideas are great for business.
It was heartening to see that businesses are recognising that employees with creative skills add significant value to the organisation and are prizing this skill above all others. And coupled with a Deloittes survey I read recently that stated that 78% of Millennials want to work for a company that encourages innovation and creative thinking, we are perhaps seeing a business landscape shifting in favour of those who recognise the commercial power of a business driven by ideas and are choosing employees from those who seek a creative culture so that they can truly add value and be valued for more than their ‘task-focused’ skills.
So how does a business encourage a more creative culture?
I often talk to clients about making the most of their brain capital – both theirs, and their employees. I don’t really hold with there being ‘ideas people’ – yes, some people can be naturally more creative, but given the right situation, stimulus (and training), everyone is capable of generating ideas. So my first tip? Involve everyone in coming up with ideas – and do it regularly.
Running regular ideas sessions can be a fantastic way to get everyone involved. It puts ideas firmly on the business agenda, values everyone’s input and creates a fantastic collaboration across the business – not to mention maximising your investment in the brain capital in your organisation. Asking your people for their ideas tells them that they have so much more to contribute than just their job-based skill and gives you a wealth of fresh perspectives and ideas. Even as a solo business owner, there is no excuse not to be running regular idea sessions – you just get the luxury of deciding whether to hold the session on your sofa, on the bus or in your back garden.
I talk in detail in my book A Practical Guide to Business Creativity about how to structure and run an ideas session, but at the very heart of any session where you are generating ideas are what I call Random Sparks – think of them as a friendly, creative poke of a brain – objects, words, pictures or anything that will jump your brain out of its usual pattern of thinking and into a more lateral, free-associative state where all the best ideas are just waiting to happen.
So, let’s give you a challenge to use in your first idea session: How to be a more creative business? I am sure you can think of a few ideas that could solve this challenge. Now to introduce a Random Spark… let’s say, a taxi driver. How would a cabbie solve this problem? Well, a cabbie would set the meter running… so maybe you could have a timed idea challenge, or a creative competition between teams or departments to generate new business ideas. A cabbie would expect payment… so perhaps your business could reward ideas that impact the business? A cabbie would chat about the weather… so maybe you could treat your team to a picnic in the park and get their ideas whilst lounging on the grass, nibbling on a sausage roll and enjoying the sun.
Trust your brain – and the brains in your business – that these Random Sparks will create a different way to think. Scatter them on the table (a teddy, a stuffed giraffe, a photo of a mountain, a model rocket, a book about architecture, a paper clip, an old cinema ticket… there is nothing that can’t be included in your box of sparks) and get people to pick one to use to spark a new idea. Trust your brain that ideas will come, and it will come up with something. I have been running idea generation sessions for over 20 years and I have never had anyone who has not been able to come up with an idea with a Random Spark in hand.
Starting to build a creative culture is a bold move for a business. It takes commitment and consistency. One idea session will not transform the way a business thinks, but regular sessions, involving all your staff, may well do.
So just grab a stuffed giraffe, or perhaps download our free Random Sparks app, and get creative. Your brains, your staff and your business will thank you for it.
You can find our Spark Generator app in your app store.
You can purchase a copy of A Practical Guide to Business Creativity here
And you can talk to us about how we can run idea generation sessions for your business or train your people to think more creatively here.