Entrepeneurs: Creating Creativity

Following right on the heels of “a new dishwasher makes a great Valentine’s Day gift,” the next big myth is that creativity dust is sprinkled on a chosen few, like those whose eureka moments created the Nike logo or Geico gecko.

True, creativity comes in degrees, but all of us have some of it. In business, it isn’t the exclusive domain of the founders of Microsoft, Google and Apple; all businesses benefit from it. In this economy, tapping into that creativity will help us stay in business or keep our jobs.

Whether it’s finding new ways to distribute your product, new markets for your services or finding a better inventory system, solve a problem and you’ve flexed your creative muscle. And, like any muscle, the more you use it, the more it develops.

But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The fuel is the excitement of stretching skills developed through experience. In a company where creativity is valued and recognized, good stuff happens. Happy and challenged people are much more likely to be creative than those who worry about being downsized, work in competition with co-workers or find themselves on constant deadline.

All of us have some of it,

But what about those times when you need a jumpstart? Let’s say you’re facing a particularly knotty problem or a product launch that threatens to be a real snooze-fest. At Epoch 5, when we need ideas, we call for a creative session.

The first step is to invite people from all areas of the agency. A few days before the session, we distribute a memo outlining the issues at hand and the goal of the session. More than seven people in the group is unwieldy and less than five doesn’t provide enough energy to generate some of the best ideas.

Two people—a moderator and someone to record and organize the suggestions—manage each one- to two-hour session. To get the group focused and on track, we use techniques like rapid-fire thought association or group passing, where participants build on the idea of the person before them. Most important, there are no “bad” or “wrong” ideas.

Sometimes a creative session mines a mother lode of surprising and innovative solutions, sometimes just a few nuggets. But, they always create fresh energy and promise for that next eureka moment.