When evaluating how our business is doing, we tend to gravitate toward stats. Numbers are that objective measure of growth or signal that there are significant issues that need to be addressed.
I know, for me, digging into numbers is that comfortable place. I just love it when I analyze the impact of implemented strategies. Okay… I don't always love it when the results aren't what I was hoping for, but it's certainly that fairly objective measure where I can really see whether the strategies are working or not.
But, as much as stats are essential – and a good SWOT – one aspect that is frequently neglected is measuring whether we’re remaining creative.
Creativity is key in helping entrepreneurs stand out from the crowd and gain a competitive edge.
So, in which ways do we employ creativity to ensure we’re driving innovation and growth?
One way is in recognizing opportunity. In another article, I talked about how to separate that crazy idea from a business opportunity. Well, it takes a lot of creativity to have all those crazy ideas to start with before being able to even evaluate whether they are a good business opportunity. So we need to employ that creativity. It's essential in identifying those new and emerging opportunities in the market.
The market is constantly changing, constantly responding to the environment and what is happening in the world. Our audience is growing in the sense that they are getting older, they are starting families. Will we still be able to reach them or do we need to create a new product or service for them? Or maybe we just need to recognize that our market is transient, and we actually stay within this particular sphere. It's that creativity that helps us recognize those possibilities.
Also, when we remain creative, when we practice being creative, it helps us see things that others don't see. Because if we are only looking at numbers or if we are just looking at what others are doing and saying, for example thinking “Oh, well this works for that business, I should be doing that too” that likely won’t work because then you are not yourself anymore. You are no longer differentiating yourself.
That’s why you need to employ creativity to ensure that you see the possibilities.
It also helps us recognize needs that aren't being met. If we are making that effort to be intentionally creative when working with our clients or whenever we're developing a new product, we may recognize that certain needs are not being met. Therefore creativity will help us develop innovative products or services to fill that void.
I've seen it many times: an entrepreneur, in the course of their daily operations, in the course of helping out their clients, recognizing that their clients have a specific need and when looking around for a solution, realizing it doesn’t exist. And they create that solution.
Another aspect of how we employ creativity is also in solving problems differently. I just mentioned that creativity will help us see things in a way that other people aren't, and, therefore, we can solve problems differently by creating that new product. Maybe we are even creating a new market. Coming back to our audience that is growing and changing in their own lives, maybe we create a new market and we may even disrupt existing ones.
Another way that creativity is essential in entrepreneurship is in adapting our messaging to those changing markets. Creativity is so important in developing a unique brand identity, something that sets you apart by creating a compelling and memorable brand that attracts and retains clients.
I mentioned that, if we spend our time merely looking at what others are doing, then we're not building our own identity. We're simply doing what others are doing. And if we're not working on that individuality for our business, how will our clients know that we are different?
That's where you really want to dig into that creativity in messaging.
I know recently – in my world anyway – there’s been this explosion in chatbots and use of AI to generate content for you and it's great. It's very useful for brainstorming. But personally, based on how I’ve been using it anyway, I find that it presents information in a way that is familiar and that feels “like everybody else”.
And, for me, in my own experience with it, I found that it lacks creativity. I still firmly believe that imagination, creativity in messaging is essential to stand out from the competition, and it also helps us to continue to speak to our audience in this ever-evolving business environment. New competition pops up. The world changes. Our audience changes. If we want to be able to continue to speak to them in a reality that is still connecting, then we need to employ creativity in our messaging.
A little caveat here: I am not talking about constantly changing the identity of your business.
At times, yes, we need to pivot and we need to change the way we do things. And if you want to completely change the identity of your business because you no longer want to do that, or you're not happy with it, or it's not working, that's fine. But, generally speaking, if a business is doing reasonably well, and the market is still there, if the messaging is just not connecting as well as before, then, it's about readjusting that messaging.
It's not about emulating our competition. It's about looking at what is working for others, trying to understand why it's working for others, and then transposing that for ourselves. There is risk in trying to just emulate our competition. Let's say you look at the messaging of your closest competitor and you feel they have creative messaging and think: “Oh, I really like that. I'll do something like that.” Since it's not truly coming from your own nature, there is a risk that it will come off as a weaker version of that competitor. Do you really want to be known as the lesser of them? No! So dig into your own messaging, your own business identity, your own services, and find the creativity in messaging in there. Continue to speak to your audiences and reach them wherever they are.
It's about recognizing the evolution of our audiences and continuing to speak to them.
Another way that we employ creativity in entrepreneurship is by encouraging continuous improvements. Improvements in messaging and in our services and products.
We want to avoid being in a position where we're playing catch up with our competitors in the market. We really don't want to take the lead from them. We don't want to be looking at them thinking: “They identified this new market. I'm going to improve my product that way too.” Or “They're offering this new feature. I'm going to offer that new feature too.”
We want to figure out what works for our audiences, because if the client wanted what the other person's offering, they'd probably be purchasing what the other person is offering.
There's a reason why they're looking to you. Make sure you honor that.
Set the tone in those improvements. When you're adding creativity to the continuous improvements cycle, be the one setting the tone for your own organization. Encourage a culture of creativity in innovation.
Create an environment where team members feel empowered to generate new ideas and approaches to enhance the offerings, to stay ahead of the competition. But it's really coming from within, really coming from understanding your services, understanding your clients, understanding the needs, understanding the voids, and adding creativity to that to improve and innovate.
Team members are usually the ones who are the closest to the clients and the product. They are usually filled with awesome ideas. Make sure to create an environment to capture that. Otherwise, you're really missing out.
In fostering this mentality of continuous improvements in products and services and making sure that you add that creativity, by thinking outside-the-box, it's really trying to see the world in new ways. See the product in new ways. See the services in new ways.
What it also does, when you really work that creativity muscle in entrepreneurship, is add an element of adaptability because creativity is critical for entrepreneurs when it comes to adapting to changing market conditions.
We've all seen it in recent years. Entrepreneurs were forced to reevaluate their business. And for some it was a complete pivot. They just had to. It was do or die. And so it was necessary to employ creativity, to adapt to those changing market conditions. Of course, we're all hoping that the changing market conditions will be less drastic, but at the same time, we don't know what's going to happen. And therefore working on that creativity muscle to drive innovation, to drive adaptability is essential.
By embracing new ideas and approaches, it really can help us do that infamous pivot. Or even to a less dramatic extent, it helps us adjust strategies as needed because by being creative, we are seeing things differently.
Therefore, it will give us that edge and it will contribute to staying relevant and competitive.
That being said, having that mentality does mean taking calculated risks and experimenting. And sometimes it may feel a little scary, but I'm going to say that as entrepreneurs, we tend to just go for it. Let's dive into that deep end and let's just try things. And as long as it's calculated risks, experimenting is actually a really great way to test out some of the more creative ideas.
One way to do so is by time-boxing it and having a very defined budget for it.
Of course, you want to be realistic. We can’t give something for example two hours and a hundred dollars. Okay, maybe for some things it would work! But for a true experiment that is a bit more involved you may say this is going to take a quarter to test. Let's say we're taking Q2 and we're going to test that throughout those three months. And we don't want to lose too much money on it, so we're going to, let's say, calculate our breakeven point. Or whatever makes sense for your business. Have a look and make sure that the risks you're taking are calculated.
But don't be afraid of experimenting because the magic really happens when you're experimenting. It helps test and validate those new ideas before implementing them. And it allows you to iron out some of the kinks before you roll it out to your clients or your team members. Embrace taking a calculated chance on something that could drive innovation and growth.
To quote Albert Einstein: “Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Creativity could be that difference maker in your business that isn't getting enough attention.
Whether it’s identifying new opportunities, solving problems, redefining your brand identity, focus on creatively improving, and adapting to changing market conditions.
That creativity, that imagination, is that differentiator. Continue studying those facts and figures. I know I will!
But also remember to intentionally evaluate whether creativity is actively being encouraged and employed in the organization.
Make sure to leverage creativity to achieve long-term success.