Creativity Tools for Every Entrepreneur
Creativity is something that has become closely associated with entrepreneurs, in the sense that those who engage in entrepreneurship are already presumed to have creative-thinking skills, that they are artistic or imaginative. Otherwise, they would not be able to come up with brilliant ideas and turn them into profitable ventures.
But being creative is not the only thing that entrepreneurs have going on, because all those ideas and that “innate brilliance” will amount to nothing by themselves. They need reinforcements and support, and these come in the form of various tools and techniques that entrepreneurs can use.
In this article, we explore 1) creativity in entrepreneurship, 2) tools for increasing entrepreneur’s motivation, 3) tools for gaining & improving one’s expertise, and 4) tools for boosting one’s creative thinking.
CREATIVITY IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Creativity has several meanings, all of which point to one thing: coming up with something new and fresh, or something that no one has seen before. First, it is the ability that is inherent among individuals, making them capable of coming up with fresh and innovative ideas. It can also be described as the way that these individuals do things, or their approach towards a problem that needs a solution. Finally, creativity also refers to that process that starts with the identification of a problem until the completion of the work involved in bringing the ideas to reality.
From those definitions alone, it is clear the entrepreneurs simply cannot exist without at least the smallest degree of creativity. An entrepreneur needs to have all of the following components of creativity:
- Motivation: Let us say, for example, that the individual has the two basic ingredients of an entrepreneur: creative thinking and expertise. There is still a high probability that nothing will come out of it, if the individual is not motivated to do anything about. One thing is for sure: an unmotivated individual can never become an entrepreneur.
- Expertise: This covers everything that the entrepreneur knows, particularly in the field or area that he works in. An entrepreneur is expected to have more than basic knowledge about the line of business that he is planning to set up. Expertise may be acquired through formal education, trainings and seminars, or even actual or practical experience.
- Skills on creative thinking: While expertise is largely obtained from external sources, creative thinking is more attributed to one’s personality and character. It refers to the capability of the individual to come up with ideas and putting them together to arrive at combinations that provide their desired results or goals.
These three are deemed to be the main components of creativity. Without any one of them, creativity simply could not exist. But those are not the only elements that are required in order to fully tap or utilize the full potential of an entrepreneur’s creativity. We will now try to look into the various creativity tools that are required.
TOOLS FOR INCREASING ENTREPRENEUR’S MOTIVATION
There are two types of motivation, and both have an effect on a person’s creativity, albeit in varying degrees.
- Extrinsic motivation: The source of motivation is external, meaning outside of the person. This could include circumstances or situations that he or she is subjected to. They often come in the form of incentives – both tangible and intangible – and you’ve probably heard of the saying that says money is the best motivator. There is more than a grain of truth to that when taken in a corporate or workplace setting. Employees go to work and perform their job well in order to get paid for it. Businessmen think of what products to make and sell in order to earn revenue and make profit.
- Intrinsic motivation: In contrast to the extrinsic motivation, this type is spurred by an individual’s internal desire to do or make something. He is interested about it; it can even be said that he is passionate about it. There are a lot of people who perform their job well because it gives them satisfaction to get very good results. They also find enjoyment in dealing with the challenges of their jobs.
Accordingly, we can classify the tools for motivation into two categories:
Tools for external motivation
Physical work environment design
If you have been exposed in more than a couple of work places before, you have probably noticed that you do better work in one workplace than in the others. This is most likely because of the work environment in general.
Environment can boost creativity; the flow of the creative process is greatly affected by what goes on. In a simple office setup, employees will feel better about going to work every day when they can expect to spend the workday in a clean office with good ventilation and lighting, and a comfortable seat and table.
Of course, that design does not work for all work settings, because the design of the work space will mostly depend on the nature of work that is going to be performed. Thus, the first thing that entrepreneurs should do is to make sure that they will be working in a physical environment that is designed for working. This includes focusing on the location, the lighting, the building design and floor plan, and even the furniture, fixture and equipment to be used, as well as their placement around the work area.
Aside from lighting and ventilation, here are some more points to consider:
- Use of colors. In a 2009 study conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of British Columbia, subjects were made to take a series of tests using computer screens with different colors (blue and red) as background. Results show that those who had the blue background scored higher on creative thinking, while those with a red computer screen showed more analytical prowess. The reasoning behind this was that blue was associated with peace, tranquility and free thinking, whereas red brings about feelings of urgency and danger signs, forcing people to think in a more analytical manner.
- Sound levels. Noise conditions also have an effect on creativity. Again, depending on the nature or type of work being performed, the noise or sound levels could either be distracting or creativity-inducing. Of course, those who would like to play it safe would prefer to take the middle ground: making sure that the workplace is subjected to a moderate level of noise, just enough to prevent distractions and induce creativity.
Teamwork is one of the crucial factors for productivity, and it goes without saying that it also works for creativity. Ideas tend to flow more freely if there are unhindered and unencumbered channels for sharing and exchange. Group flow, which can only be achieved when creative people get together, is an excellent way to foster creativity.
It is not enough for entrepreneurs to be aware that they are capable of coming up with creative and good ideas. Having a team that provides solid support behind and alongside them is also good for motivation. Getting assurance and reassurance that you are doing something right, or that you are on the right track, will definitely boost creativity.
To ensure group flow that will boost motivation, make sure to:
- Choose the right people for the team
- Match the skills of the team members to the right task
- Make the goal of the group clear, and be sure they understand it
Tools for internal motivation
Often, motivation becomes stronger when induced internally. Entrepreneurs have to take the actions themselves to keep their motivations high and, consequently, their creativity.
Scheduling is important when you want to achieve effectiveness and efficiency in business. In business lingo, you can often hear the phrase “time is money” and, in many ways, it is true. Many brilliant ideas amounted to nothing because of wrong timing; some other entrepreneur beat them to it, for example, or they spent too much time working on an innovation that the best time for the output to be launched or introduced to the market has already passed.
There are many time management tools that can be adapted by entrepreneurs, from using traditional planners and calendars tomodern or digital versions. A good application you can use to manage time and tasks is Flow, your online “team task managers” that lets you list down the tasks to be accomplished, prioritize them, and be reminded when you missed something.
Health and wellness activities
For an entrepreneur, health and well-being is very important. They have to remain healthy and vigorous to be able to carry out their tasks. Poorly health and sickly bodies will certainly make it difficult for anyone to go on working. They will feel unmotivated to go to work or get on thinking about new ideas. Even ongoing projects may be put on hold or delayed because of health concerns.
In order to take care of their health, the following activities are encouraged:
- Engaging in sports. Any sport that requires physical activity and exertion is advised in order to keep their energy levels up and build strength and endurance.
- Healthy and balanced nutritional meal plan. This is basically about watching what you eat: eating the proper type of food, at the right amounts, and at the right time. It’s not necessarily going to a professional dietician to create a meal plan for you to stick to. It’s all about finding the right balance.
- Meditation as a method of relaxation. Being stressed out all the time is not good for anyone, much less an entrepreneur. Relaxing every once in a while, especially through meditation, is highly recommended even by the most seasoned business people.
- Vision boards. Sometimes it is not enough to just think you can do something; it will also help if you are constantly being visually reminded about it. Making a vision board, or a simple poster containing pictures, words and mantras that will push you forward is already a good way to affirm what you visualize as an entrepreneur.
TOOLS FOR GAINING AND IMPROVING ONE’S EXPERTISE
One great thing about expertise is that you can gain it from various sources, in various ways. The most common way, obviously, is through formal education. Taking courses in college or extra classes certainly never hurt in making sure that an entrepreneur is armed with the basics, but there are other tools to hone his expertise.
Do not confine yourself within the four corners of a classroom, or restrict your learning after you have graduated or earned your degree. There are organizations that conduct separate trainings, seminars and workshops related to the line of work that you are involved in. You will also find aspiring entrepreneurs taking on internships or doing volunteer work in order to gain hands-on experience and use what they learn later on when they start their own venture.
Use of platforms
Fortunately for entrepreneurs – aspiring and veterans alike – there are now several platforms that they can take advantage of in order to improve their skills and expertise. Some examples include:
- Coursera. Massive open online courses, also known as MOOCs, are now being offered by many educational technology companies, and one of them is Coursera, a firm that is connected with top universities and learning institutions. Through Coursera, entrepreneurs can take the courses that they want and need online, choosing from a wide range of subjects and classes.
- SkillShare. This platform utilizes a “learning community” setup, where creators, entrepreneurs, and anyone looking to learn can take online classes that are taught and handled by industry experts. The approach is more interactive, because they are more focused on the completion of a project rather than just reading up loads of literature or listening to long lectures. This is particularly recommended for entrepreneurs, since the courses are focused on skills in advertising, business, fashion and design, audio-visual production, food technology, and more.
- Codecadamy. Programmers are always on the lookout for new information and learning, for the simple reason that coding and programming is fast-paced and changes rapidly as technology also advances. Codecademy specializes in providing free coding classes of the various programming languages currently in use. There is also a community where everyone can converge to discuss further about programming.
CREATIVITY TOOLS FOR BOOSTING ONE’S CREATIVE THINKING
One would say that creative thinking is something you are born with, not learned. True, it is innate in most of us. However, there is no reason to think that it, too, cannot be acquired. In fact, there are a lot of things one can do in order to get ideas, get inspired, and become a more creative thinker.
This is as traditional as any creative person could get. It could be in the form of a simple notebook where you can write down ideas as they come to you. Artists or designers are usually seen carrying a sketchpad around with them, and this is where they put their ideas into writing or a simple representation.
There is also a more modern option: digital devices such as tablets and digital notepads. Even smartphones are now seen as excellent note-takers. Evernote is a widely-used note-taking application that also allows entrepreneurs to sync with their other devices, so they can check their notes and get to work anywhere they are in the world.
There are several brainstorming techniques that you can use. You just have to choose the one that you are most comfortable with.
- SCAMPER. The word stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, Eliminate and Reverse. Entrepreneurs use this technique by looking at current or existing products or services and asking questions about them, using the seven words as prompts.
- Six Thinking Hats. In this brainstorming technique developed by Edward de Bono, the participants of a group discussion are guided towards six different directions, marked by six colors: Managing (blue), Information (white), Emotions (red), Discernment (black), Optimistic Response (yellow), and Creativity (green). Using the strategy of Parallel Thinking, the members of the group start by focusing in one direction, and donning the metaphorical hats as the discussion moves forward, depending on the direction they are taking.
- Mind-mapping. This is one of the tried-and-tested brainstorming techniques, where a central idea branches out to more ideas and sub-ideas. There are several Mind Maps templates that can be obtained online to get you started.
Trend spotting tools
By looking at trends, you will easily spot patterns that will inspire you to come up with a good idea for a new product or service. In the past, entrepreneurs used to largely rely on their powers of observation or wait for official statistics to be released by regulatory agencies before they can establish and analyze trends and patterns. However, in today’s technology age, there are now several tools that can be used to learn about current trends, as they happen.
- Of course, in this day and age where everything works online (well, almost everything), you want to keep your pulse on the trends that really matter. LinkedIn Pulse makes that happen.
- Pinterest. More than a social media platform, Pinterest is a good place to start spotting trends. In fact, many people (even the non-entrepreneurs) readily claim to have found inspiration when checking out images “pinned” on Pinterest. You will be amazed at the amount of creativity found on this website, and how effective they are in inspiring anyone to be just as creative, or even more so.
- Fab. Creativity was often used synonymously with design, so that is one of the first things that people who are looking for inspiration seek out. Fab.com is a flash sale website that focuses on design items, so it contains unique and fresh design ideas that will definitely inspire anyone.
You can probably name more creativity tools that specifically focus on motivation, creative thinking and expertise. Entrepreneurs need not be concerned that they will have trouble finding these tools, however, because they are now more accessible and readily available.