Seven Ways to Re-Engage Your Creativity And Accelerate Your Career

Couple of mid 20's software developer resolving some problems with the code they're currently working on.

Couple of mid 20’s software developer resolving some problems with the code they’re currently working on.

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Today, most people still believe that people are just born creative and others are not and that’s just the way it is. However, our creativity is not simply inherited, like brown eyes or blonde hair. Most people also still believe that right-brained people are more creative and left-brained people are more analytical, even though research in the past five years has shown that, in fact, we use both sides of our brain when we are being creative. We use both sides of the brain to fire our creative juices. So, why do so many people still believe they are not creative?  In fact, why should you care about being more creative?

Because the world is looking for people who can use creative skills to solve problems. According to IBM’s recent Global Survey of 1,500 CEO’s and entrepreneurs, 92% indicated that creativity and problem solving was the top trait or skill they look for in hiring or promoting an employee. Why did these CEO’s list creativity as a must have trait in new employees, even above integrity?  Because the world of business is moving too fast in every way, technology and new products and services are disrupting industries faster than ever and that creates a multitude of problems on a daily basis.  How people solve those problems dictates which companies grow and thrive and which companies begin to fail. What you need to do is to refine your definition of creativity. It’s about problem solving.

Many people associate creativity only with artists, writers, designers, filmmakers, not programmers for example, or lawyers, marketers, and accountants.  But these are exactly the people that imagined online auction marketplaces, simplified legal services and forms, connecting people who had cars with those that wanted to be somewhere else and an easier way to do accounting for small businesses and created eBay, LegalZoom, Uber and QuickBooks, respectively.

The fact is, everyone is creative, and you can develop your inherent creative skills just like you would any other skill. Consider when you were a young child, let’s say between the age of three and six years old. Without even thinking about it, you were naturally creative.  Your instinctive curiosity and imagination fueled your day. You drove your parent’s crazy with the word “why.” You created “forts” out of pillows and sofa cushions. You ate dirt to see what it tasted like. You threw food at the wall to see if it would stick. You ate glue to see how it would taste. You were constantly using your imagination to play make believe games and create imaginary friends.  You had conversations with no one. You were insanely curious. And you were creative.

If you are a founder, leader or manager, you need to sincerely believe that “employee creativity” starts with each and every employee. It does not matter what type of company you are in: a law firm, restaurant, accounting, banking or a mobile applications company. You “own” the creativity that happens in the organization. Do you really believe that people at law firms and banks don’t need to be creative in either introducing new products or solving problems? Are you going to leave creativity and innovation in your company to chance?  You get to choose creativity.

Happy Solution Concepts on Touch Screen

Happy Solution Concepts on Touch Screen

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Here are some simple ways to “jumpstart” your own creativity mindset:

Observe more:  do you really see what is going on in your company, in the marketplace and with local and worldwide trends (i.e. organic foods, renting via Uber and AirBnB, mobile banking and online transactions, etc.) that affect you or your customers? Intentionally, try to observe more.

Make new mind connections: when was the last time you read a book not related to your business or attended a trade show or event that had nothing to do with your industry?  Pick up new knowledge or better yet, a new skill. Learn to code or acquire a new language.

Talk to your customer:  when was the last time you had a conversation with a real customer?  How many customers do you talk to regularly to get their insights or to develop a little customer empathy and gain insights?

Really observe something: Do you take note of colors, smells and sounds that make up a brand or retail presence? When was the last time you took a different route to work or walked into a store you have never been in before?

Ask “why” more:  As you meet with people and look to help them solve problems, do you form your own opinions quickly and ask 80 word questions, likely to confirm those opinions, or do you simply ask “why” more often, then just listen? For example, pretend you run a ketchup company. Your VP of sales says, “Sales are down.” You ask, “Why?” “We ran out of inventory.” “Why?”  “We had problems related to the new product.” “Why?”  “There was a shortage of a key component.”  “Why?”  “We only have one supplier.”  Aha! Now you know the real problem, and it’s not that sales of ketchup are down.

Reframe your challenge:  instead of looking at a challenge from one “closed” perspective, step back and reframe it. For example, your VP of sales is back. Again, “Sales are down.” “Why?” “We don’t know why, so let’s run a promotion to move more ketchup.”  “What if we lower the price?” “That will hurt gross margins, net profits and our brand.” And you’re stuck.  What if you changed your old way of doing things, though, by, in this case, expanding your product line to include mustard, using your same manufacturing and distribution channels?  What if you re-conceived of your business as not a ketchup company but as a condiment company? In fact, in April, 2015 this is precisely what Heinz did, entering the $400 million retail consumer mustard marketplace. That’s how you reframe a challenge.

Build your creative network:  who do you hang out with both at work or in your personal life?  How many “creative” people are in your network?  When was the last time you had a “creative” conversation with someone not in your profession?

You were born with creative curiosity.  Commit to and develop your creativity skills so that you too can become a solid problem solver.  That effort might lead to better career options or perhaps even creating a new company.

[“source=forbes”]