Product life cycles are getting shorter and the pressure is on to find new innovative products to sustain the development of the business. Creativity is the key.
American humorist, James Thurber observed that “the hardest thing is to convince my wife I’m working when all I appear to be doing is looking out of the window” and for many people, being creative requires simply looking out of the window. But, with shorter product life-cycles, the demand for new products is on the increase. It might have taken years to come up with the innovative new product that you’ve just launched, but you’ll need the next big idea (or major improvement) within months if the business is to scale-up sustainably. And that demands some creative thinking!
One look at Apple Inc. and the iPhone tells you that one way to approach the subject is to see how you can ‘improve’ an existing product simply because it is becoming increasingly hard to find the next big idea – and doing so ‘on demand’ is near enough impossible. Or is it? This point was put to Dr. Leonie Baldacchino, Director of the Edward de Bono Institute for the Design and Development of Thinking at the University of Malta, who believes that creativity is a mental discipline and can be taught.
“Creativity is a skill and, just like any other skill, it can be nurtured and taught. Everyone has the potential to improve their creativity, but becoming an expert creative thinker requires practice and perseverance, determination and discipline. It is not enough to want to be creative – one must take action to nurture the mindset required to generate ideas that are novel and useful.”
Taking a similar approach, thriller writer, Alex Hunter points out: “Writing the next book while the current one is going through the publication process is the difference between amateur writers and professionals – a new book every one to two years is essential.” Or consider horror writer, Stephan King, who has written over 100 novels and stories since 1960, and he puts this phenomenal creative output down to the discipline of sitting down every morning and writing. It’s that discipline that unlocks his creativity.
So, beyond sitting down and focusing on developing new products and leaving the day-to-day grind of running the business to others, what else can you do? Here are five things that will help:
- Give yourself time and space to think. Make it a regular activity and remember, it’s your responsibility as the head of the business to think; others can do!
- Understand that there are no bad ideas; some ideas are simply better than others.
- Think every day. Creativity has to be practiced!
- The best ideas come by not forcing them. Creativity is often a subconscious process.
- Brainstorming releases creative energy.
Dr Leonie Baldacchino again:
“A variety of tools have been developed to help us be more creative, and when we teach our students how to use these tools we see a marked boost in their creativity. The more they practice, the better they become, which builds their confidence in their creative skills. This in turn encourages them to try out new creative ideas and solutions, leading to further skill improvement.”
Constant creativity is hard work, but it’s absolutely essential if your business is to grow and become sustainable no matter what field you’re in.