The term creativity often evokes vivid visuals of disorder: messy rooms strewn with scraps of documents, crumbled paper, highlighter pens, paint, and more. The fancied creative mind drudges along, supposedly oblivious of the wider, cluttered world it dwells.
The best entrepreneurs are, by default, creative thinkers. While technical knowledge and experience do contribute to solving operational challenges, they need much more to be successful. Creativity fulfils that requirement. It balances the brain’s teeter-totter and pushes one to roll the dice.
However, their creativity isn’t necessarily chaotic. There is mostly the clichéd “method to the madness” here.
What, then, is the method that entrepreneurs deploy to arrive at a creativity-business acumen equilibrium?
There are three important parts to the answer, in my view.
Enforce convergent and divergent thinking independently
Creative and concrete thinking are mutually exclusive.
While we may often incline towards the former, it does not emerge naturally since our work time mostly involves logical decision-making—convergent thinking—where one seeks well-defined solutions to problems.
Divergent or lateral thinking, on the other hand, typically occurs in a free-flowing, spontaneous manner. In this mode, multiple creative solutions are to be considered for any given problem.
When the office photocopy machine malfunctions, for instance, convergent thinkers (often most team members) call for a technician. A few divergent thinkers, on the other hand, attempt to determine the problem themself and fix it.
In conditions like this, the onus is on team leaders to do the appropriate thing. For starters, they need to identify the lateral and convergent thinkers of their teams. Besides categorizing the potential solutions, they must also get the timing right and, if necessary, “switch gears.”
Stimulate the right side of your brain
Some people are said to be born more creative than others. But one can learn to be creative, too. The challenge is to transition from a convergent state of mind to a divergent one.
To do this, it is important to set aside some time on developing this ability to “switch gears.” There are multiple techniques and activities that help on this front. My five-step approach involves:
- a change in location, stepping beyond the office space
- walking, even holding walk-meetings
- exploring visualization to think differently and generate imageries
- maintaining a journal, scribbling down ideas as they pop up in the mind
- brainstorming with others to tap into their talent
I also strongly encourage team leaders to create anonymous platforms to exchange ideas. Colleagues, especially entry-level employees, are rarely comfortable expressing their thoughts in public. Creating platforms for them to propose ideas and send feedback may help overcome their reticence. Eventually, seeing their ideas getting accepted could motivate them to speak more openly.
Normalize boosting creativity to improve efficiency
Often, productivity takes a hit when we try to find the right mindset to tackle specific problems. Earlier on in my career, I often found my ideas or suggestions being brushed off quickly. I realized later that the problem was not the ideas, but that the team I was proposing them had a convergent mindset.
In such situations, therefore, I either suppressed my creative potential or unintentionally developed a creative block.
To avoid this, it is essential to integrate creativity into the workflow itself. It may sound contradictory, but works. Smooth implementation of ideas is as critical as generating them. While technical support ensures efficiency, doors should be left open for feedback or iterations of ideas, too. Over time, this gets ingrained in the core of the business and becomes a part of the workplace culture.
Finding that sweet spot between entrepreneurship and creativity may call for a leap of faith. If that requires new ways of working, so be it.