Why Creativity is so Crucial for Entrepreneurs?
In today’s economic world, entrepreneurship is considered the key factor toward economic development. Entrepreneurs strive to create more opportunities in industry, providing more employment options and ultimately having a positive impact on per capital income, revenue generation, lifestyle, etc. This article deals with one of the most important elements of entrepreneurship: creativity.
In this article, we look at 1) characteristics of the entrepreneurial process, 2) why creativity is so important for entrepreneurs, 3) the link between entrepreneurship and creativity, 4) basic elements of the creative process, and 5) how to be creative and think outside the box.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ENTREPRENEURIAL PROCESS
Entrepreneurship is like doing any other business, but there are some characteristics, which distinguish it from traditional business techniques.
An entrepreneur’s mind revolves around new ideas and opportunities for innovation. There is a continuous and conscious effort required to look for niches and undertake the risks in entering them. Entrepreneurship involves the continuous examination of existing business workflows and devising ways in order to carry them out in a more efficient and effective way, in terms of both time and cost. In simple words, entrepreneurship works toward the optimization of business.
Entrepreneurship works toward optimizing resources and taking full use of them to create efficient processes. It increases an enterprise’s wealth and adds value by increasing the economic activity that comes with optimizing the whole process.
The process of entrepreneurship rewards the individual by increasing the profit potential of the enterprise. This is the result of undertaking new ideas and providing an innovative product or service.
The whole essence of entrepreneurship revolves around the courage and ability to take new risks. Patience is needed to observe the fruitful outcome of an idea, and it takes time and effort to go from conceptualization to implementation of ideas. This time and effort is the risk that the entrepreneur is willing to take.
Entrepreneurship creates new niches and enterprises, which requires a work force. This provides exciting job opportunities for young adults. Hence, with the innovation and profit, entrepreneurship has immense potential for creating jobs.
The Entrepreneurial Process
The entrepreneurial process starts with conception and refinement of an idea, followed by implementation and management. The flow chart of the entrepreneurial process is shown below:
WHY CREATIVITY IS SO CRUCIAL FOR ENTREPRENEURS?
A thorough observation of the entrepreneurial process shows that creative thinking is the must have “skill” of an entrepreneur for the creation of new ideas. Creativity allows a person to devise interesting processes, which gives so many advantages to entrepreneurs.
But what exactly makes creativity so crucial and important in an entrepreneur’s work life?
Creativity leads to success by:
Creating new ideas for competitive advantage. The whole process of entrepreneurship is rooted in creation and exploration of new ideas. When an entrepreneur is able to generate a new idea that is feasible as well as efficient, it gives him an edge over the competition. The ability to explore different niches is just like a learned skill or a resource that is possessed by an individual.
Thinking of novel ways to develop your product and improve the business. Creativity helps develop new ways of improving an existing product or service and optimizing a business. There is always a room for improvement in the deliverables of an enterprise; it is the creative entrepreneur who can assess how to do it.
Thinking the unthinkable. Creativity requires imagination to produce the most obscure ideas. Imagination is needed to cross the boundary of “usual” and “normal” or to think outside the box. This allows entrepreneurs to think beyond the traditional solutions, come up with something new, interesting, versatile, and yet have success potential.
Finding similar patterns in different areas. Sometimes, due to following a routine or a habit, the thinking process also goes along the line of those established processes. Creativity enables people to connect dissimilar and unrelated subjects and make successful entrepreneurial ideas. Merging different fields creates interesting intersections that creates new niches. Most people are afraid of bringing different disciplines together, but most interesting ideas come from colliding different fields.
Developing new niches through creativity and entrepreneurship. In entrepreneurship, it is important that new aspects of traditional business are explored. This can be in the form of changing the method of manufacturing the product or delivering the service or how are they supplied to the user. All these areas can create a niche that has great potential in business.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND CREATIVITY – HOW ARE THEY LINKED?
We have now assessed that entrepreneurs can attribute their success to creativity. But what exactly links entrepreneurship and creativity?
Entrepreneurs link the creative mind and the business mind.
In today’s world, due to globalization and excessive industrialization, products are manufactured and exported to international markets. As a result, there is easier access to every product, everywhere. The consumer has access to various kinds of products ranging in type and quality. So what does a businessperson do in a market flooded with products? How can someone think of manufacturing and supplying a product in markets where consumers already have their trusted preferences and so many choices to choose from? How can we make a product stand out from the rest?
A creative mind answers all those questions. Creativity helps us think of how to improve existing business practices. A brand might be very established and popular among the consumers, but there is always something that can be done differently from them and in a better way. A creative mind is like an artist who creates new and exciting patterns on canvas. Creativity can come up with the most unthinkable ideas and bring innovation into existing practices.
Creativity is simply the ability of imagination. Imagination leads someone to reach never before explored areas. In business terms, imagination alone is what is known as “thinking outside the box”. Using imagination, an entrepreneur can put aside the practical norms and think of something creative and innovative.
However, a creative mind has to have entrepreneurial skills to bring those creative ideas to life in a business setting. An entrepreneur assesses the requirements of how to execute an idea by analyzing available vs. required resources, how to establish a new enterprise and how to manage it. An entrepreneur designs business models that can support and execute innovative ideas in the first place. An entrepreneur provides the ‘science’ aspect about how to bring the artistic creativity to life. Therefore, an entrepreneur bridges the gap between the creative genius and a traditional business approach.
There are indicators that signify the creative thinking of a successful entrepreneur.
Creativity does give an entrepreneur a competitive advantage, but how does one assess whether they are creative enough or not?
Following are characteristic features indicative of a creative entrepreneur:
- An entrepreneur adheres to rules and principles only when they add value to the organization and have a potential to attract more customers.
- An entrepreneur experiments with his ideas as the first step. The second step is learning from the experience and the third step is implementation of what they have learned.
- An entrepreneur is less afraid to lose and is always keen to experiment in new ventures.
- The entrepreneur is not afraid of creativity and believes that creative ideas will only help their enterprise.
- A creative thinker will take inspiration from new ideas in every area directly or indirectly related to the enterprise.
- An entrepreneur is not afraid to go beyond the industry and enter new markets. This opens a wide range of opportunities to formulate new niches.
- Every product and service is not good enough and has room for improvement. An entrepreneur realizes that very well.
- A creative thinker is interested in bringing totally opposite things together to create new products or services.
- An entrepreneur creates new products for existing services and new services for existing products.
- Creative ideas come more quickly when someone is not afraid to appreciate new ideas irrespective of who comes up with them.
- An entrepreneur shares an idea and is open to feedback that improves and refines the idea.
- Creativity comes from learning different things, whether they are related to the industry or not.
These indicators show that entrepreneurship and creativity go hand in hand with each other. Entrepreneurs are more flexible and seek improvement more than they seek perfection.
Creativity needs to be structured.
Despite all the flexibility to undertake new ventures, creativity does require a bit of structure for successful execution. However, too much structure robs the whole essence of the process. The key lies in having a rigorous approach toward work without being too stiff. Researchers say that creativity works best with two separate approaches: convergent and divergent. A convergent approach is focused and seeks a single solution using available information. However, divergent thinking works to create many creative ideas in different directions.
Creative thinking is not the only skill needed for entrepreneurship.
The discussion so far has led us to think that entrepreneurship is deeply rooted in certain basic skills: creating new ideas and having the ability to take risk in executing them. However, one should realize that this is not the only skill that is required for the successful execution of an idea. Creating an idea might be easy; successfully executing it might be a difficult task. What makes a person a successful entrepreneur? Why do some people recognize the opportunities that exist around them and others do not? Are they genetically different? Or do they have a different perspective to handle things?
There might not be conclusive answers to those questions, but researchers have pointed out some areas for which an entrepreneur should have some expertise. These are:
- Personal traits. Personal attributes help entrepreneurs in a variety of ways. Optimism; vision, self-control; and having initiative, persistence, tolerance and resilience are all the features that make an entrepreneur stand out and have the ability to maneuver projects.
- Interpersonal skills. An entrepreneur has to interact with people at many levels. This requires them to have excellent interpersonal skills. Communication, leadership, motivation, personal relations, negotiation skills, and ethics are attributes that are a must have in a very dynamic business environment.
- Critical thinking. An entrepreneur must be his own critic. There should be a keen observation of various aspects of an idea so it can be perfected before implementation. A lot of future effort can be saved if an idea is critically analyzed, and no one else can do it better than the entrepreneur himself.
- Practical skills. These skills are required at the stage of idea implementation and management of the enterprise. An entrepreneur must be able to plan and organize goals and tasks. There should be effective decision-making and critical monitoring at various stages of the process.
Business thinking vs. creative thinking: what comes first?
This question is similar to: which came first, the chicken or the egg? The debate involves which aspect the entrepreneur chooses to handle first: the creative or the practical side of the process.
Some believe that creativity is the initial step of the process and it is followed by the building of the model for its execution. However, it might not always be true. These two processes are so interlinked with each other that it is rather difficult to mark their boundaries. Both aspects go hand in hand with each other from start to finish. However, creativity might be dominant at the preliminary stage and the business thinking might be at the helm during the execution, or vice versa.
BASIC ELEMENTS OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS
The process of creating interesting ventures is inherently dynamic and versatile. There are many aspects to the approach and the stages of the creative process. Some insight into the process is given below:
Step 1: Preparation
The first stage, of course, is the preparation of some basic ideas to hold onto. There has to be some inspiration that “forces” or “prepares” the entrepreneur to move forward. The creative process starts with identifying a problem and then researching for related information. This is done in an effort to start looking for a viable solution. An entrepreneur looks in every direction to solve the problem, be it inside the industry or outside.
Step 2: Thinking outside the box – going beyond the comfort zone
Can we achieve anything if we are not willing to go beyond our comfort zone? One has to leave the comfortable arena, go beyond and take a risk. Rewards come with efforts.
“Thinking outside the box” is an expression that has been used in marketing, business and psychology since the 1970s. It owes its origin to a “nine dot” game that was once used as a test of creativity. The puzzle was designed such that the person had to go beyond the dots to find the solution. However, psychologists say that this “external” factor is not really external, it is simply the existing solution to the problem. “External” is only how our brain tends to perceive it.
Step 3: Creativity isn’t magic
Despite the immensely amazing things creativity can achieve, it is definitely not magical. Creativity is simply approaching things with a different perspective. The simplest approach to creative thinking can be copying different elements, transforming them, combining them and eureka! There is a new idea. This essentially makes use of existing elements. As Kirby Ferguson says, “It happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials. And the soil from which we grow our creations is something we scorn and misunderstand even though it gives us so much — and that’s… copying.”
Step 4: Incubation
During the incubation stage, ideas that have the potential to solve a problem tend to flourish. This stage is characterized by the unconscious thought process of refining an idea. Apparently, there are many activities at work during this stage, but the overall goal is to find a solution. Evaluating existing projects can help to generate viable ideas. Some researchers even refer to the creativity process as re-creativity since it takes inspiration from existing ideas and molds them in an innovative way.
Step 5: Illumination
Incubation 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. It is like a “light bulb” moment, hence it’s called illumination.
Step 6: Verification
This stage determines whether the “found” solution even has the potential to work or not. The idea can either be accepted as such, modified with minor or major changes, or rejected altogether, requiring that the whole process be done again.
Step 7: Critical thinking
Generating innovative ideas is a comparatively easy task. The major success of an entrepreneurial endeavor lies in critically examining the viability of an idea. Critical thinking enables an entrepreneur to self-judge in order to evaluate the idea. It is defined as a self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored and self-corrective process of evaluating an idea.
No one else is aware of the aspects of the problem as well as the proposed solution like the entrepreneur is. Therefore, a very honest opinion about the viability of the idea can come from the entrepreneur himself.
Critical thinking offers many competitive advantages to the entrepreneur, such as:
- It helps formulate the best possible idea.
- It allows for exploring new horizons and seeing the big picture.
- It enables the entrepreneur to evaluate and ask questions that have not been considered previously.
- It helps in taking decisive actions; the result of creativity.
Therefore, the process of creative thinking that starts with brainstorming “ends” at the critical analysis of the idea’s viability. The resulting potentially viable ideas can lead to the creation of actual entrepreneurial enterprises or improvement of the existing ones.
HOW TO BE CREATIVE AND THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
In business, if one aspires to achieve more, then it requires doing more. Everyone is comfortable with the norms as they are pretty established with few chances of risks. However, entrepreneurship cannot thrive on the “norms”, rather it requires building something innovative from those norms.
Creativity leads to innovation, which in turn leads to improvement in the business one way or the other. Creative thinking leads to new products and services, increasing market competition.
Creativity being a very important factor of the whole endeavor can sometime not be that easy to achieve. An entrepreneur cannot rely upon occasional “light bulb” moments to achieve professional greatness. However, there are certain ways that can “train” the entrepreneur to be able to think creatively on a frequent basis, boost the process and make it more efficient.
Think freely, but focus on the major question you want answered, the product you want developed, or the area you want improved.
Free thinking is primary to creating more contemporary and profitable business practices. Likewise, a creative mind is expected to come up with innovative ideas; something not thought of before. However, the basic focus of the creative process should revolve around a problem and building a solution for it. Putting up some restrictions and establishing some parameters is important in the creative process. Endless opportunities interfere with the generation of viable ideas. Focused thinking helps in detailed idea generation that has the potential to be implemented.
Choosing a successful idea requires that there are enough viable ideas on the table in the first place. Creative thinkers need to churn out every possible alternative they have in mind. In fact, the collection of ideas or brainstorming is so important that there should be regular brainstorming sessions. This helps in compiling every idea starting with the most absurd ones. One should know that a very weird idea could be made wonderful later on.
Encourage and reward creative ideas of your team.
The team can be the greatest asset an enterprise can have. Conscious efforts should be made to encourage the employees to think creatively. There could be small trips arranged for employees to get inspiration and effectively engage in creative thinking. At the end, there should be rewards for employees who help in increasing the company’s value. There could be certificates, vacations, awards or another motivational strategy to inspire employees.
Share ideas and solicit feedback.
We learn a lot from our experiences. Nevertheless, in entrepreneurial endeavors, it is better that an idea is refined and theoretically foolproof before it is taken to the step of execution. One person could be ignoring some very important aspects of a problem, however, sharing ideas and soliciting feedback can give a multidimensional perspective.
Evaluate your ideas.
Princeton Creative Research has laid out a checklist for entrepreneurs to evaluate an idea. Some salient checkpoints are given below:
- Do you think your idea has some realistic need and is beneficial toward that?
- Can you pinpoint the issue your idea resolves?
- What will be the expected short-term and long-term results and gains of implementation?
- Do you know any limitations of the idea? Are there any risk factors involved?
- Is the implementation simple or complicated?
- Do you think the market can accept your idea? Do you know who your potential customer would be?
- Is there a need of your product or service? Alternatively, will it have to be created by marketing and promotion?
These evaluation marks can help supply detailed knowledge of the idea’s viability, providing another tool to check the idea along with critical thinking.
Entrepreneurship could simply be the solution for the economic problems of today’s world. It brings the most innovative and exciting ideas to reality. However, it is a process that can be made even more successful with creative thinking. The above discussion helps us realize the importance of creativity in the entrepreneurial process. Creativity and entrepreneurship are intricately related and go hand in hand with each other. However, both are important to each other; and one cannot guarantee success without the other. Hence, to be a successful entrepreneur, creative thinking should be consciously done to bring forward the most viable ideas.
In New York (NY), we meet DigitalOcean CEO Ben Uretsky. He shares how he came up with the idea …