Four principles underpin creative success in business and entrepreneurship! Learn them…

Good ideas don’t come out of thin air. The creative genius sitting in the corner is largely a myth. Some people consistently generate and refine great ideas, but most of these conceptual creatives are actually just well practiced (consciously or not) at following four key principles that underpin creative success.

That’s right, creativity is a science that you can both learn to be good at, and to institutionalize into your organisations.

In my various roles (Angel investor, startup founder, exec) I am responsible for driving innovation or assessing creative potential, and so I have studied creativity extensively. The latest research confirms my experience, and in short it boils down to four key principles which I summarize in this article.

  1. Volume. The more you do, the luckier you get.

It’s not always genius, it’s often math. The more ideas you come up with, the more chance there is that you will stumble on a good one.

The most successful creatives and inventors consistently pursue a large variety of ideas, concepts or creations within their field. For every idea that made it, there is a big pile of discarded sketches, sculptures, models and notebooks in the garage.

Research lots of ideas and document them. Create incentives for those you work with to do the same. Build structures for them to be communicated regularly.

2. Analogies. Existing concepts are the building blocks for new ideas.

All new creations are are actually unique combinations or applications of existing ones. The closest thing we have to a score for creative intelligence (that spark we all strive for), is just the ability to understand the general principles of how things work, and to apply these to new creative challenges.

You can think of creativity as making new images with pieces from a range of different puzzles. The more you know about how things work (or don’t), the better you will be able to link separate concepts together in new and useful ways.

Research and follow trends in your industry. Keep abreast of what technologies exist and what they can do. Make this part of peoples’ work. Put the structures in place to document, summarize and distribute these findings in your companies. Involve people with a variety of skills and points of view in your creative investigations.

If you do this, the spark will come. Do it until it does…see principle 1 above 😉

3. Manage milestones, not time. You can’t put creativity on the clock.

Ideas are not born fully formed. They are messy, and in the early stages the time and resources required to refine them are seldom known with enough certainty to plan the process accurately. Providing freedom to refine through trial and error is critical.

But I get it, you are not Picasso hibernating in a dark room. This is business, and in this context creative endeavours must achieve three miletones before they are adopted.

  • Technical feasibility – A fancy way of saying “Can it be done?”
  • Financial feasibility – A fancy way of saying “Will it be profitable?”

and most importantly…

  • Market feasibility – A fancy way of saying “Does the end user want it?”

You need a “yes” to all three of these questions. You shouldn’t continue or launch if you don’t get them. Allocate resources to finding these answers, and if you get a firm “no”, move on.

4. Discipline. Idle projects are wasted opportunities.

The habit of continuously chipping away at projects is key to creative success. When projects seem overwhelming, or when there is a “creative block”, it is still important to maintain momentum.

In both cases it helps to design simple tasks to inch the project slightly forward. This ensures it stays in mind and creates the space for the “accidental” discovery of a tangible way forward or a “no” to one of your milestones, in which case you can move on to more promising ideas.

I hope I have distilled how, as leaders of innovation in business, it is possible to institutionalize creativity. It’s not some magical thing, it can be managed!

Good luck…

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