Saturday, June 5, 2010


If you’ve ever sat anxiously in a meeting amongst your peers, each of you doodling crop circles and flowers on a yellow note pad, or if a blinking cursor on a clean white screen sends you day-dreaming about your vacation or what you’re having for lunch, then you know getting those creative juices flowing takes a tremendous amount of energy. What sounds like child’s play is really an acquired ability to push boundaries and work hard at break-away thinking.

Ambitious new ideas, not just a re-hashed modified version of last year’s concepts, mean using imagination for real innovation. Creativity is being able to see what could be and not what is.

Here are three approaches to the question I get asked the most, so how do you create ‘creativity’?

1. Let go of the need to be right. True invention is neither right nor wrong it just is – usually left to the interpretation of the end user. In fact, most visionary ideas are never politically correct – after all, who would pay for a drink of water? Or pay an entrance fee into a retail store? Is there a realtor willing to donate a percentage of proceeds to a buyer/seller’s charity in order to sell more houses? This is the basis for my mantra, “Don’t compete, create!” Stop copying your competitors or coloring within the lines of industry standards. Start focusing on creating something new – let go of the need to be correct or proper. Then you’ll be competing with your own ability to ideate – instead of appearing lazy or worst yet, conforming to mediocrity because you duplicated someone else’s creativity.

2. Be absolutely fearless! Fearless in your thinking, fearless in your capacity to make mistakes and absolutely fearless that no idea is too radical. Without the willingness to look foolish, it’s hard to break idea barriers. Don’t be afraid to explore the ridiculous, the outrageous, or the unknown. Before you declare “it won’t work,” “we can’t do that,” or “it will never fly,” examine it through the lens of “what if.” Apply cross-over concepts from other (non-competing) businesses. Case in point, if hand-held POS check-out works for car rentals, why aren’t they used in department stores? And if I can test a new lipstick or test drive a car, why isn’t there a method to test the acuity of a doctor or lawyer? No, not every idea will be a new iPad®, but can you imagine what Apple's brainstorming sessions were like when someone first suggested this new application? A new idea should make your palms sweat, your stomach churn, cause dizziness and/or insomnia; otherwise you’re probably playing it too safe.

3. Write down all the assumptions you have and throw them in the trash. No, wait! Maybe not in the trash just yet, because you can use them to spawn new ideas. Who said a restaurant’s price point should be based on food cost – suppose it was calculated on time? If I can ride standing on a bus or train, why can’t I ride standing in an airplane? And shouldn’t the price of a movie ticket cost less for a film that’s been on ‘the shelf’ for a month and more for a block buster new release? Or better yet, when will a savvy movie theatre introduce a VIP section (with reserved seating and table service)? Genuine creativity demands that you challenge all assumptions in order to discover great ideas.

Ideate real creativity to set you and your brand apart. By continually looking for new ideas and innovation, everywhere, all the time, you’ll build your creative muscle and break idea barriers. Don’t compete, create!

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