CREATIVITY

WHY IT IS NEEDED

Creativity is one of the most desirable traits of people starting and doing a business. It is indicated as one of the key soft skills that characterize a successful entrepreneur. Each of us has a certain amount of creativity that can be developed. However, with age and the acquisition of new social roles, we often block our creative thinking fearing to take a risk. As Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up”…

Creativity is highly important for startups:

  • to spot unsolved and important problems and to create, develop, invent new ways of solving a problem,
  • startups don’t have huge budget for marketing, hiring, development, so startup founders must be creative with resources,
  • startups often introduce new things to market, that’s why you need to be creative in order to explain new stuff in easy to follow and understand way.

By reading this chapter you will understand what creativity really is, what is the role of creativity in business development, what limits it, and how to develop your creativity. At the end of the chapter you will get acquainted with selected techniques that allow you to solve specific problems in a creative way.

1. Know how creativity helps in business development

Creativity is defined as an attitude or a process that involves the emergence of new ideas, concepts, or associations or connections with existing ideas. Creative thinking leads to innovative and original solutions in various spheres of life. It is a mix of intellectual competences, creative talents, personality traits and the broadly understood socio-cultural and economic environment. In business practice, creative competences mean the ability to constantly learn new values and solutions as well as new ways of acquiring and transferring knowledge.

Among the characteristics of creative people there are: flexibility (going beyond obvious things), ability to create many ideas about a given problem, meticulousness, efficient dealing with conflict situations, ability to perceive the whole situation, inquisitiveness, perception and understanding of others’ needs, independence of thinking, orientation for action, regularity of work, engagement. According to D. Nawrat (2013), the creative competencies of entrepreneurs include, among others:

  • the ability to generate a large number of ideas in a short time,
  • constant search for new solutions,
  • originality – creating innovative connections and ideas,
  • the ability to choose the optimal solution,
  • perseverance in overcoming difficulties,
  • motivation as a problem and a challenge,
  • vigor and efficiency,
  • consistency, regularity, courage,
  • tolerance and respect for different views,
  • avoiding premature evaluation of ideas,
  • openness to criticism,
  • a relativistic view of reality,
  • independence of thinking.

Creative thinking is a feature that makes it easier for entrepreneurs to analyze market changes and make appropriate decisions more adequately to the situation. Thanks to it, not only the entrepreneur himself but the whole company develops. In addition, creative thinking allows you to quickly and flexibly analyze the situation inside and outside the company. When, in turn, unexpected troubles appear – thanks to creativity, you can find the original solution. Creativity is an opportunity to create such an offer of products or services that nobody has yet invented. Creative thinking leads to business success through:

  • creating new ideas for competitive advantage – doing business is a continuous creation of new ideas. These ideas do not only concern the idea of a product or service, but also the process of their marketing, development of marketing strategy, finding sources of financing, etc. Thanks to creative ideas, your business idea becomes more competitive,
  • thinking of novel ways to develop your product and improve the business – creativity helps in introducing product or service innovation and in matters related to the organization of the startup’s operation. Remember that you can always improve something more, change it, develop,
  • thinking the unthinkable – creativity is the use of imagination to formulate sometimes seemingly unreal ideas. It’s about going beyond the boundaries of standard thinking, “thinking outside the box.” Thanks to creativity, entrepreneurs can go beyond traditional solutions,
  • finding similar patterns in different areas – very often due to routine or habit, the thinking process proceeds according to established processes and norms. Creativity allows people to connect different and unrelated objects, and thus creates original business ideas. Combining different fields creates an interesting mix that allows you to identify market niches. Most people are afraid of joining different disciplines, but the most interesting ideas are created at their borders,
  • developing new market niches –  thanks to creative thinking, new aspects of traditional business can be developed, such as changing the way of producing a product or providing a service, which in turn creates an interesting niche market.

Creativity and entrepreneurship are closely related to each other to the extent that it is difficult to set boundaries between them. It is worth emphasising that a creative attitude is equally important at the stage of developing a business idea, as well as implementing it to practice.

2. Follow the process of creative thinking

Faced with the need to solve any problem related to your business practice, try to approach this situation through the prism of the stages of the creative thought process. The process of creating interesting solutions is dynamic. There are many aspects of the approach and stages of the looking for creative solutions. Some information about the process is given in table 1:

Steps of creative processExplanation
Step 1: PreparationIn this step you have to identify a problem and then research for related information.  You should look in every direction to solve the problem, be it inside the industry or outside.
Step 2: Thinking outside the box – going beyond the comfort zoneYou have to leave the comfortable arena, go beyond and take a risk.
Step 3: Creativity isn’t magicCreativity is not a magic. It is approaching things with a different perspective. The simplest approach to creative thinking can be copying different elements, transforming them, and combining them.
Step 4: IncubationIn this step you develop ideas which have the potential to solve the problem. This stage is characterized by the unconscious process of mental improvement of ideas. The overall goal of this step is to find a solution.
Step 5: IlluminationThis step leads to clarity of ideas. This is the “solution finding” stage. Now the creativity process leads to the knowledge of some practical ideas that can be put to work.
Step 6: VerificationThis stage determines whether the “found” solution has the potential to work or not. The idea can be: accepted, modified with minor or major changes, or rejected altogether, requiring that the whole process be done again.
Step 7: Critical thinkingIn this step you have to critically examine the viability of an idea. Critical thinking enables you to self-judge in order to evaluate the idea. This step is defined as a self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored and self-corrective process of evaluating an idea.
Table 1. Steps of creative thinking process. Source

Creative thinking includes 7 steps. It starts with defining the problem that we want to solve. The next step involves the need to “leave the box”, the so-called comfort zone in which we are stuck for various reasons, mainly comfort and lack of time. Then we analyze our problem from different perspectives. Remember that we do not always have to look for a revolutionary solution. Creative thinking is also the transformation of existing objects, refinement of them by copying solutions existing in other spheres. The next step is called incubation and includes identification of many different ideas that will allow us to solve the problem. In the next stage of the creative process, we choose one solution and determine how it can be implemented in practice. An extremely important aspect of creative thinking is the verification of the idea, which follows by sharing with it other members of the team, experts in a given field. At this stage, it is determined whether a given idea can be accepted, rejected or modified. The final step is a critical assessment of the chosen solution, which usually comes down to a personal, personal self-assessment.

3. Train your creativity and avoid barriers

Remember that creativity is not a skill exclusive to people in traditionally creative professions. Many psychologists argue that creativity can be trained. Already in childhood, we have heard that creativity and imagination can be developed through reading books, watching movies, playing instruments. In fact, it applies to people of all ages. In addition, physical exercises will help in the development of creativity. An important role is also played by traveling and the associated learning about new cultures, traditions, people, learning about the unknown.

In addition, remember that creativity likes: courage in transgression of stereotypes and comfortable habits, sense of humor, as well as positive thinking. Therefore, assuming that creativity is not a congenital feature, it is worth looking at how you can learn it. James Oliver-Roche (2017) provides some great practical advices on developing creativity (table 2).

MethodDescription
become familiar with the creative processTo succeed as a creative professional, you need to know the stages of the process of creative thinking. It is a process aimed at developing a concept for improving something. It starts with pointing out divergent ideas and moves towards a common solution. It is worth remembering which stages it consists of (see table 1)
develop creative routines and habitsTry to give up hardened habits and thought patterns, and develop new hobbies and interests. Thanks to this you will gain a new fresh look, expand your knowledge and generate insights. These new habits will expand your potential “range of ideas”.
embrace diversityThe search for diversity is one of the most valuable things for people working on their creativity. You cannot just do the same every day, because it limits your potential. You need to create space for new ideas and connections around yourself, look for a hobby that is not related to their profession. Remember that fresh insights often come from interacting with different people. Contact with them gives you a wider perspective. Spend time in various places and gain new experiences. It will allow you to change the way you think. You need different ideas, different people, different activities and different places.
kill the noiseMuch of the day is spent for each of us on “noise”, i.e. activities that are not critical to what we are trying to achieve. The noise comes in many forms, from answering “urgent” e-mails, to attracting to irrelevant meetings and constantly dealing with notifications in social media on your phone. In order for your creativity to appear, you must kill as many sources of noise as possible in your life.
Table 2. Methods of developing your creativity. Source

Creative thinking is effective only when you are aware of barriers that can reduce creativity. There are many obstacles to creativity. These are barriers: emotional, social, cultural, as well as personality, like self-doubt and lack of self-confidence.

Generally, creativity barriers can be divided into two groups:

  1. personal factors (which you can find in yourself), such as eg shyness, conformism, lack of openness, fear of criticism, low self-esteem, state of mind / body (for event experiencing negative stress),
  2. organizational factors, such as lack of flexibility in the organizational structure, unfavorable organizational culture, hierarchical management style in the team.

Other factors that limit creative behavior include: stress,  restrictive routines, beliefs, fear, self-criticism and functional fixity (which refers to the cognitive inability to look passed the designated function of an object or idea; it is a strong cognitive bias that prevents people from seeing something beyond the initial or designated function of an item, term, or concept).

Obstacles to creativity also include: the need to quickly get results, the existence of rigid rules and barrier legal and administrative, which often prevent us from dealing with the problem; collecting the necessary information. In order to cross these barriers, you should think outside the box and discover areas and directions that have not been explored so far.

4. Use techniques supporting creative thinking

To practice your creativity while solving business problems, you can use a variety of techniques to support creative thinking, such as brainstorming, mind mapping (introduced in topic: Decision Making and Problem Solving), Scamper technique or Edward de Bono method of 6 hats. You can use these techniques in team work as well as in solving problems.

Scamper technique

 SCAMPER is a modification of the classic brainstorming set in a slightly stiffer framework. The starting point of this technique is not to invent something completely new, but to try to transform an existing thing and look for innovation thanks to such changes.

The first step is to define the problem you want to work on. Are you looking for an idea for a new product? Do you want to improve it? Are you looking for ways to promote it? Put a specific goal in front of you. Next, try to modify and transform the subject in seven different ways:

  • S-ubstitute – replace some part of the problem with something else,
  • C-ombine – combine the thing you analyze with others,
  • A-dapt – copy existing ideas to your problem,
  • M-odify – change, e.g. size, shape, scale, colors, etc.,
  • P-ut is another use – change the ways of using the discussed thing or problem or completely modify the target group,
  • E-liminate – take away something, delete some parts, so you can develop completely new ideas,
  • R-everse – reverse the analyzed situation upside down, change the order, layout, arrangement.

The first letters of each stage form the word SCAMPER, from which the name of this method originated. It was developed by Bob Eberle in the 1970s, but it is Alex Osborn, the legend of the world of advertising. He put many auxiliary questions to each of the stages, which made his use easier (figure 2).

Figure 1.  Stages Scamper technique and auxiliary questions to facilitate its use. Source

 The method of 6 hats Edward de Bono

This techniques was developed by Edward de Bono in the early 80s. It is now used by businesses all over the world. They involve putting on a selection of metaphorical hats when it comes to making a decision. Each hat represents a different direction of thinking. You and your team members can learn how to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a colored symbolic “thinking hat.” By mentally wearing and switching “hats,” you can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation, or the meeting.

 The White Hat calls for information known or needed. “The facts, just the facts.”
The Yellow Hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. Under this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and benefit.
The Black Hat is judgment – the devil’s advocate or why something may not work. Spot the difficulties and dangers; where things might go wrong. Probably the most powerful and useful of the Hats but a problem if overused.
 The Red Hat signifies feelings, hunches and intuition. When using this hat you can express emotions and feelings and share fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and hates.
 The Green Hat focuses on creativity; the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas. It’s an opportunity to express new concepts and new perceptions.
 The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process. It’s the control mechanism that ensures the Six Thinking Hats guidelines are observed.
Figure 2. Six hats - six perspectives for problem analysis. Source

This method can be used in a group or on your own, and you may find yourself ‘wearing’ more than one hat at once. Let you think and decide on topics in a rational yet creative style.

For example, you are introducing a new product to the market, and so you are doing specific activities to estimate the market and demand, these are real sizes that is one of the hats responsible for the facts. Then you approach the problem from the side of the emotions that arouses the product in potential customers, but also for example in the competition. By adopting a pessimistic attitude, you need to set up a failure option, for example: that your product will not be accepted and no one will buy it. The optimistic approach consists in the fact that you assume success in advance. Approach from the side of the possibilities, that is, you assume that your new product will revolutionize the market, delight consumers and awaken a new trend, and as a pioneer you will be able to constantly develop it. We are left with the last organizational aspect, or how to connect all these aspects. And what now? Come to each of the hats creative, point out solutions to the problems mentioned.

 Design thinking as a method of creative problem solving useful for startup

How to create innovative products? And not only in terms of its appearance or usability, but also the strategy of operation, its development, improvement of processes and methods of operation. The solution is the design thinking methodology, which is based on a workshop with the use of creative techniques. Design thinking is a method of creative problem solving that can be learned.

Design thinking is such a universal method that it can be used not only for the design of new products, but also for example searching for innovative solutions for a given situation. In this way, it is possible to solve complicated problems. Design thinking provides a fresh perspective on the given situation, so you can rediscover the problem and get closer to finding the right solution. The project process is open, which means that even people who have different professional experience can be involved in it. Thanks to this, you can look at the problem from different points of view.

This method includes 5 stages, but it should be remembered that it is not a linear activity. By implementing each stage, you can return to the previous one at any time.

Figure 2. Stages of design thinking process

The design thinking process begins with the analysis and understanding of the problems of potential recipients of our idea through conversation and observation of their behavior. Based on the analysis of recipients’ opinions and behavior, we define a clear direction in which to go looking for solutions to our problem. The next step is to look for these solutions. Inventing and creating great ideas that are intended to meet the needs that have been previously identified. The fourth stage is prototyping. From among our ideas, we select and create preliminary versions of solutions. The last step is testing. We show our solution to the user, check how it works in practice and depending on the situation, we go back to the previous stage or released the final product on the market.

THE RESULTS

After reading this topic you already know: what is creativity, what is its role in business development, what limits it, how to develop your skill of creativity, how the process of creative thinking looks like, how you can develop your creativity.  You are also familiar with few techniques that allow you to solve specific problems in a creative way.

Remember that the most important thing is to look for the least obvious solutions to problems, break away from the constraints, stiff rules and go beyond the typical box-based pattern of action and thinking. If you want to succeed, you must be able to combine your business idea with creativity. Creativity allows you to better plan and improve your business ideas.