So you want to be creative, but do you know how?
A former colleague of mine, who was a partner at one of the big four accountancy firms, was describing a training session which put him, and his fellow team members, into a darkened room for one day where they started learning about outer space. What did this have to do with his job? Nothing! So why would a global organisation be prepared to invest thousands of hard and soft dollars in training members of their senior management team, in areas that had absolutely nothing to do with their work? The answer is simple, creativity.
So often business people, from both the corporate and the entrepreneurial world, get bogged down in the day-to-day running of their operations, to the point where creative thinking is stifled and it becomes difficult to break out of “work-think mode”. By putting them in a darkened room, my former colleague’s company gave him and his team a mental vacation, something far more useful than you might imagine. By being submerged into a completely different environment they started thinking and operating in different ways. After a day of watching videos about the solar system, discussing the moons of Jupiter and listening to scientists talk about cosmochemistry and black holes, the following day saw the group embark on a much richer and more colourful brainstorming session.
So here’s the thing. The most precious commodity for most businesses is creativity. But how does one passionate service provider really stand out from the crowd when there are so many others vying for that sweet spot? If you have a rich vein of creative ideas and approaches that help your clients to think and act in a different way, then you will have clients queuing up to work with you. So what do you need to do with your clients and prospective clients to ensure that your approach and intervention is seen as unique and that you release your creativity? Read on…
1. Never stop questioning
There is an old saying ‘curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought him back again’. Curious people ask more questions; often the ones that others have overlooked. Creative problem-solving is about asking a series of questions that become more advanced as you progress. Your client may get frustrated but don’t be put off – it’s in these moments of difficulty that breakthroughs happen.
2. Identify the real problem your client is experiencing
So often we tend to provide our clients with services that we want to sell but are we really serving our clients when we do this? Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what is the challenge/problem they are facing? How do they explain it, how do they see it manifesting itself and how does it make them feel, think and speak? At this stage don’t step in with how you can provide the answer – hold back. Arrive at the solution first and then see if your services match the needs of the client. Be careful not to over complicate the issue, when identifying your client’s issues you should simplify the problem as much as possible because it removes the complexity and helps you establish a creative response.
3. Know what the problem is
Once you know what the problem is you should ask yourself who else has been faced with the same challenge and find out how they overcame it. You will probably find that a number of businesses in different industries have faced similar difficulties to your client, some might even have been in exactly the same situation. In the majority of cases they will probably all have been resolved in different ways. The tactics that work best for one business owner might not necessarily be the right strategy for your client but nevertheless, considering them is highly useful because it helps you gain a broader understanding of the issues and gets you closer to a solution that’s right for your client
4. Keep an open mind
As Danielle LaPorte says: “An open mind innovates”. It’s by reserving judgement and not jumping to a conclusion that you allow yourself to really hear all the options and see the possibilities. You give yourself the gift of seeing different ideologies and viewpoints before coming to a conclusion. That gives you the upper hand over your competition, which may be too keen to push one view. Imagine how invigorating it will be for your client to have a real conversation about the challenges they are facing. Imagine how it will help them to re-examine their thinking. It’s likely to be more productive than simply listening to them, or giving a tried and tested sales pitch. So why don’t you set up a brainstorming session with your most valued clients and do it for them for free? Not only will both parties stand to learn a lot about each other but you might find that suddenly you have generated an additional stream of revenue.
5. Know when to stop
Don’t be the person that allows the process to get the better of them by going over and over endless possibilities or fixating on details. Be confident in yourself and trust when the process has come to a natural conclusion. You might not arrive at the answer you were hoping for but people need time to reflect and consider. Give your client space to breathe and watch the magic happen.
Creativity is not an added luxury but an essential survival skill for every entrepreneur. As a service provider, being creative enough to help solve your clients’ problems is a sure-fire way to overcome your own. Targeting the right issues, developing solutions and ensuring they are implemented appropriately, takes creativity and turns it into genuine and valuable innovation that can prove priceless for any business. So perhaps the real question you should be asking yourself today is whether you’re up for the challenge of truly releasing your creativity?