Fostering Creativity in Your Business
Most people value creativity, but only one out of four feel they’re living up to their own creative potential. Fostering creativity in your business brings many benefits, professionally and personally.
So says consultant and brand strategist Susan Meier, who led a virtual workshop on creativity in brand-building for Umbrex and Veritux women’s groups in April.
Meier, who runs Susan Meier Studio where she acts as a brand consultant and conducts workshops on the topic, says that fostering your own creativity has a huge Return On Investment (ROI) — including making us happier.
“We know creativity is important — the question is, how do we get there?” she says.
Particularly when it comes to creativity in the workplace, Meier sees that many aspects of creativity are “trained out of us” in the name of productivity or professionalism. She also points out the differences between adults and children when it comes to creativity.
Children are more open, not only to their own creative potential but also to exploration without the fear of embarrassment or failure that often accompanies us adults when we experiment or explore the boundaries of our creative selves.
Three characteristics of the creative mindset
Meier identifies three characteristics of the creative mindset, often exhibited by children — and not necessarily associated with business.
- Play: A sense of exploration, less fear of failure, which often leads to innovation and new solutions.
- Defiance: A rejection of existing norms, which allows people to take risks, push boundaries, and see what others might not.
- Collaboration: Getting out of your echo chamber to bring different perspectives and experiences to the problem.
When Meier helps her clients with branding, for example, she generally starts their journey with a blank wall and some post-it notes as a way to bring more play and exploration to the process.
Cutting, pasting, and handwriting — these types of tactile, physical brainstorming leads to a different level of creativity by accessing a different part of the brain versus screens and keyboards.
“It’s becoming more valuable because we spend so much less time off our screens,” she says. “You can generate more ideas, and ideate as much as possible without censoring yourself.”
Doing things off-screen can often make the onscreen activities more productive and engaging.
Questioning authority is a necessary part of creativity. This can be hard for adults, who’ve been taught to be polite — especially in a professional setting where reputations are at stake. (It seems to come much more naturally to teenagers…)
To encourage more defiance, Meier favors one-on-one interactions at the outset of the project. Stakeholder interviews give individuals a chance to honestly voice their opinions without fear of judgment and without the influence of groupthink that sometimes occurs in team kickoff meetings.
The idea is to lower the stakes of saying what’s really on their mind. Often the conversations that really move the project forward happen in these safe settings where participants feel more comfortable speaking up.
Working with people you don’t normally work with, gathering the input of people who’ve had different experiences – these things will always make your work stronger, because those folks will inevitably think of things you didn’t. And that massively raises the creativity quotient.
One of the things Meier is very particular about in her work is the compilation of participants. Whether it’s gathering a panel to ask for feedback or building a working team, she encourages adding people that might not initially be considered.
Those who are not the ‘usual suspects’ bring fresh perspectives and more often than not are the ones who crack the case.
She also recommends hopping out of your bubble from time to time by attending an event or a class that connects you to whole new groups of people and ways of thinking as a way of maintaining a high baseline of creativity.
Practical hacks for fostering creativity in your practice and life
In closing, Meier shares a few simple things you can do to foster creativity in your practice and everyday life.
- Light: Ample windows and natural light helps clear the mind and reduce fatigue.
- Nature: Whether it’s a view of the sea or a simple desk plant, elements from the natural world bring inspiration and improve focus.
- Order: If your work space is a mess it can create a messy mental state. Making sure there’s order can look like your own order, just try to eliminate chaos.
- Ritual: Routines and familiar objects provide grounding and structure that allow the mind to roam freely.
- Privacy: A room of one’s own, preferably with a lock. Having the time and space for uninterrupted thought and the ability to leave work materials undisturbed is a huge creative boon.
“Creativity is not a luxury,” Meier says. “It’s a legitimate and worthy goal.”