In the last few days I’ve been following a Linkedin Small Business Group conversation thread. The topic is on the number 1 challenge for small businesses. One of the lesser discussed challenges that came up, was around creativity and generating ideas. So with this in mind, we asked guest writer and psychologist, Nick Petrovic to share his insights on getting creative.
Most business owners have experienced the excitement that comes with a new idea. Whether it’s yours or a team member’s, an idea can change the direction of your business, open new doors and shift your perspective.
While some ideas may simply come to us unexpectedly, the business of innovation is not something that should be left to chance. Like most business endeavours, preparation is vital when encouraging the generation of new ideas, and not surprisingly it is one to be tackled as a team.
Be open to possibilities
Many successful people have described the phenomenon of luck as the moment when preparation meets opportunity. New ideas are similar in that one needs to be open to them in order for an opportunity for improvement to be detected. A great way of encouraging an environment open to new ideas is to ask lots of questions. Try to see each situation as an evolutionary process, a precursor to a better, more efficient phase. How can a product or service be safer, faster, more affordable? Include your team in this way of thinking so that idea generation becomes a basic component of developing your business.
Encourage open communication
We all have ideas, some great and some not. However, even when an idea is brilliant we can quickly become reluctant to share it if we feel the environment is not a supportive one. All ideas are worthy of consideration in business, and even those that may not be implemented can lead to future changes or inspiration. Ensure your team members feel supported in their expressions.
Remember also that communication is not limited to conversations within the office walls. Communication with external sources is also a great way of picking up on areas in need of improvement. Speaking with other departments, suppliers and of course clients are all important in inspiring ideas based on a need for change or improvement.
Value ongoing input
Encourage your team to foster an active awareness of potential problems and the attitude that problems are opportunities in disguise. Where possible, rather than prejudging new ideas on purely rational grounds, take an experimental approach where creative solutions are not only encouraged but rewarded. Acknowledge the importance of ideas regardless of whether they are implemented or not, and if possible allow the creator of a successful idea the opportunity to champion it.
Set some guidelines
They say when it rains it pours, and when ideas are born they can sometimes be difficult to contain. It can be helpful to take a structured approach, especially if you find that your team’s ideas begin to encroach on other business matters. It can be helpful to categorise ideas based on: urgent necessary changes; non-urgent necessary changes; possible improvements; and “big dream” ideas. This will not only make it easier to develop a timeline for considering ideas, but also how much attention you want to give an idea when it arises. Ideas based on necessary changes may need to be acted on more quickly than “big dream” ideas.
It can also be helpful to treat idea generation as you would any other business project – assign appropriate staff, allocate a budget and set regular reviews so that you can monitor the success of the creative process. Remember also that timing is crucial in the implementation of ideas, so consider how new changes could affect existing systems, products and services, especially if it involves expansion of your business. You may also want to keep some good ideas in your pocket for when you really need them, rather than constantly making well-intentioned improvements.
What are the key challenges that you face in business and when it comes to generating ideas, where do you get inspiration?