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Creativity at Work: Why It's Important and What It Takes

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Creative accounting is certainly an ill-advised proposition, but in most other areas of business, from manufacturing to marketing to management, creative thinking often represents your most valuable, viable opportunity to differentiate your company from the competition.

Creativity is the key to any innovative idea, product, or service. No matter how large, small, serious, or clever your business objective, approaching it with creativity will almost always deliver more effective results.

With indistinguishable offerings saturating many industries, creativity might even be your most important asset. That's why it's worth examining creativity and what the creative process requires.

Courage

Unknowns can be frightening—and nothing is more of an unknown than creativity.


Committing to creative problem-solving begins with mustering the courage to look at your traditional strategies and common goals in entirely new ways. How could you make a tradeshow exhibit an experience visitors remember? What kind of creative fuel would it take to send your next product launch into orbit?

If these questions seem a bit unnerving, consider that, even at its best, doing the expected will lead only to expected results. Ho hum. You might be satisfied with that reliability, but what about your bosses? Your peers? Your customers?

Creative risk-taking often rewards you in unexpected ways. Surprise your stakeholders with something unique—something they'll truly appreciate and value.

Trust

Trust among the participants and trust in the process—both are essential to any creative effort.

Brainstorming can often appear aimless, but it's that very quality that leads to real "a-ha" moments.

Every idea, no matter how insane or impossible it might seem, must be treated with equal respect. Postponing judgment until an appropriate moment will likely be difficult at first, but it will get easier with practice. As will blurting out those ideas you used to consider too crazy to share.

Energy

Intellectual and physical energy will always spark more productive creative problem-solving. Inspiration never results from cruising on automatic pilot. Neither do ad campaigns, multimedia presentations, or any other marketing communications that get noticed.

Don't worry about running out of energy or ideas. Creativity has a way of generating its own intellectual and physical energy, so once you've got the blood flowing and the synapses firing there will be no stopping your momentum. Trust us.

Limits

Tight deadlines. Modest budgets. Specific goals. Limits like these often lead to creative brilliance. The more you know about your project from the beginning, the more likely you are to come up with relevant, realistic ideas. Creative thinking without stated objectives and defined boundaries typically leads to ambitious but ambiguous ideas.

Failure

That's right. Creativity requires failure. Creative risk-taking is always worth your time and trouble—even if your creation fails. Playwright Samuel Beckett said of failing, "No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Beckett's attitude will help you through dry periods and help you face creative disappointments. Whether you're writing a play for the stage or are in the early stages of re-branding your business, there's no secret that will ensure creative success. If there's a trick to consistent creative thinking, it's to remember what you learn from your past failures so that you, indeed, fail better next time.

Success

Success of any sort is a reward, but succeeding as a result of your own effective creative ideas is more than gratifying. You own that success because you own the original idea that produced it.

It's no coincidence that you never see industry leaders copying their competition's creative ideas.

Creativity is often what best characterizes industry leaders—because more so than their actual products and services, creativity is often their primary differentiator. Every creative success you enjoy will make it easier to step up the next time you're called on to lead rather than follow.

This article originally appeared in inSights, the monthly e-newsletter of communications design firm Larsen.


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Brian Beatty is a senior writer at Larsen (www.larsen.com), a communications design firm with offices in Minneapolis and the San Francisco Bay area.

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