Why Creativity is Important to Your Business
You may think that creativity is not all that important to your business, but it can actually help you improve how you operate and make you look better to your prospects, customers and within your industry. Interestingly, it can also make you feel better about what you do and can bring a great deal of satisfaction. Cultivating creativity in your business therefore can be something worth exploring.
What exactly is creativity?
Creativity is the ability to make connections between things that at first may seem completely unconnected. Creative people are high-energy and curious, they also are very open-minded with a view that anything is possible. Ideas, brainwaves often come about when two or more things are brought together in a different, or unique way. As you may imagine, this can be very useful in business.
Imagine two people who are asked to come up with a new product for a company, let’s say a new flavour of herbal tea. The first might start with a list of all the current teas the company produces and then try to find an herb they have yet to try making into a tea. He or she might well discover one or more herbs that have never been tried, of course they may not have been used in the past for a very good reason such as they taste awful. The second person however, gets all the teas out and starts to mix them together perhaps using an Earl Grey tea bag and adding a Lemon Zinger tea bag just to see how they taste together. An hour later he or she may have dozens of new teas that colleagues are eager to sample. The first person however, is still wondering why his or her tea tastes so bad. Of course, a third person may think completely out of the box and come up with new packaging, or a new delivery mechanism such as selling loose tea rather than tea bags.
Why do many business owners suffer from a lack of creativity?
Some businesses focus almost exclusively on the profitability of business; cutting back rather than using creativity to move forward. Others believe they are not creative, or their business doesn’t lend itself to creativity. That attitude, or mind-set, can lead to missed opportunities. People who think and act creatively are continually on the look out for ideas that can make what they sell, or what they do better. They are always looking to move forward and as we know if you’re not moving forward you are very likely slipping backward.
How can you be more creative?
So, if you are stressed, always thinking of the dollar, and don’t think you are creative, what can you do to bring innovation to your work? The first thing is to assess what you realistically can and cannot do. If you feel you don’t have time to impart a creative touch to your work, then hire someone to either do it for you, or to look over your work and then talk about it with you. It is amazing how often people who think they aren’t creative can come up with good ideas when they bounce ideas off of someone who is innovative, non-judgmental, and enthusiastic.
The second thing that even the most time-stressed person can do is to take a few seconds here and there throughout the day and simply notice things. When you flip through a magazine, pause if something catches your eye and spend 15 seconds thinking about what it is that you like, and how you might be able to do something similar in your own line of work. When you are watching television, look at the advertisements that make you smile, or think, and try to figure out how the advertising executive came up with the idea for that commercial. When you are cooking, look at the cut kiwi in your hand and see how two totally different colours and textures form something visually appealing. Doing this will help you realize that creativity is just a word for the merger of childlike curiosity and what experts call “unusual connections”. When it comes down to it, creativity is the ability to bring two or more unrelated things together in order to solve a problem or create something new and exciting.
The concept of more ideas and better ideas, is something that can help any person in any job, especially a small business owner. Everyone benefits from being creative. And, fortunately, being creative, or coming up with more ideas and better ideas, is something you can learn. Doing some of the things listed above will help you to actually become creative. You will start seeing associations between totally different things. You will start being adventurous in your choice of colour, texture, and language. And you will find that over time, you will come up with more and more ideas that astound your staff and especially your customers. That makes for great business – creative business!
It’s Not the Mistakes Customers Remember – It’s How you Fixed it
So, it all went wrong, you screwed up a customer’s order. It didn’t arrive on time, or they got the wrong item, it was damaged, or any one of a number of things went wrong and they are seriously unhappy. Perhaps it was a major contract, or it happened to one of your best customers, maybe it was the deal that would have taken your company to the next level. But now your reputation is at stake. What you do next will determine whether you keep the customer, or word spreads that you screwed up and you not only lose this customer but a bunch of others too.
The first thing to do is not panic. Here are three steps you can take to help you recover from even the messiest screw-ups.
There’s no getting around this. Humiliating as it may be, if it’s your mess, make sure you own it. Customers can smell a cover-up a mile away, and even if you get away with it initially, when they find out down the road that you tried to deceive them, you’ve not only lost that customer for life, you’ve lost everyone they talk to about you in the future. Even if the mistake was made by an employee, you are ultimately responsible for the outcome. Accepting that responsibility takes courage, and integrity, and the initial fallout may seem enormous but in the long run, this is the best way to regain any ground you lost. And, one more thing, apologize in person!
It’s not always possible to fix things immediately, but you do need to find a temporary solution to the pain the customer is suffering. Even it costs you to make arrangements to ease the inconvenience the customer is feeling, do it—it really will be cost effective in the long run.
Fix it and exceed their expectations on every level
Now it’s time to show the level of integrity you and your company hold dear. This is your opportunity to make it right and let your business shine. Ensure your staff are friendly and do not come across as begrudgingly putting this right. This is a time to be contrite and offer some way of making up for the inconvenience; perhaps a discount, or something extra, or even a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine. Something that shows you are genuinely sorry you screwed things up. Always remember that it’s not the mistake that is remembered but how you put it right.
Mistakes are inevitable. You or someone in your company will make them, and eventually – you’ll make a big one. How you recover from that mistake will make or break your relationship with that customer, and with their network of family and friends. And, the recovery may cost you. However, the expense will pale in comparison to the cost of bad publicity for your business. The average dissatisfied customer tells 11 people about their experience. On average, each of those people tell six more people. That’s a minimum 66 potential customers you may have lost because you were unwilling to incur the expense of making it right for one customer. If you are able to keep that customer in spite of the mistake, you can be guaranteed they’ll be talking about you – in a good way, and others will hear about what you did to make good what was potentially disastrous. Companies that do this are rarer than you might imagine. If you become that kind of company, customers will seek you out.
Coach’s Corner – What is not working?
When we find ourselves seeming to be on that proverbial “hamster wheel” and we have been challenged by the same problem time and again. When we are experiencing the same issues with our staff or friends or family. We need to first ask, what is not working for us?
By identifying what is not working, we can start to think of reasons why it’s not working. What has changed? From there, we can start to strategize ways to make it work.
Let’s say the recurring issue confronting us is the lack of teamwork in our company or department. Whatever we have been doing has not translated into that team environment; cooperation is not the norm. It is time to take a hard look at what we are presently doing.
Here are three areas of enquiry that may help with the challenges we face.
First, what are we doing that may be stifling teamwork? Are we actually “walking the talk” or just talking? Many times, we talk about being a team while not modeling that behaviour or not having procedures in place to support it. Employees will not buy into a concept if they do not see it being supported, truly embraced, or even see a reason for it.
Second, we might ask what has worked in the past? Was there a time when there was a team spirit? If so, what did it look like? When did it change and why? Is there a way to get it back? The past often holds clues to our future, we can learn from our past.
A third angle for reflection is to look at other companies or departments where teamwork is flourishing and learn from them. Where have we seen teamwork and cooperation flourishing? What lessons can we learn from them? Who can we talk to about their experience with successful teams? Finding examples of successful teams and how they developed is a good way to incorporate it into our business.
To get off the “hamster wheel”, we need to shift our thinking and behaviour by looking at what’s not working, what has worked in the past, and what we can learn from others.
Paul Abra, Motivated Coaching