A lot of qualities are considered a personal must for the success of the entrepreneur and their organisation. Creativity as one of those qualities however, is unfortunately and wrongly, not given the prominence and importance that it deserves. A creative entrepreneur stands a greater chance of success than one that is not. And as we shall see, entrepreneurship is all about creativity and innovation. Every other activity simply supports the overall effort towards achieving these twin objectives. The reasoning is not far-fetched. All business enterprises thrive on solving problems and creating value for their customers, and you can’t provide solutions to problems without regular shots of creativity. As businesses become more competitive in this information age of the global village, the need becomes even more imperative.
The kid-friendly sneaker fastener, Velcro®, was invented in 1951 by Swiss engineer George de Mestral. The engineer noticed how burrs clung to his dog’s fur and his own clothing while on a hunting trip in the Alps. He set out on a long journey to recreate the natural hooking mechanism. After several trials and errors, de Mestral settled on nylon, an artificial plastic that had only recently been invented, for his fastener. The engineer spent eight years working to mechanise the production system of his invention and was finally granted a patent for his fastener in 1955.
Subsequently, the Velcro® has been used in countless innovative scenarios from sealing disposable diapers to holding together a human heart during the first artificial heart surgery. In particular, NASA has been a proponent of the nature-inspired hook and loop fastener since its early days. With an extra strong, proprietary hook and loop fastener, NASA uses touch fasteners to anchor equipment in space, and even includes a little Velcro® patch inside space helmets as a nose scratcher for the astronauts!
What is creativity? The business dictionary defines creativity as the “Mental characteristic that allows a person to think outside of the box, which results in innovative or different approaches to a particular task.” Michael Grybko, explains creativity from a scientific view-point ‘… as an idea that is novel, good, and useful. It’s a little broader than the Oxford Dictionary’s definition, where it’s just the ability to create, because that doesn’t really say much. You can create something and it’s not very useful or it just won’t work well.” Michael continues “Pooling from …. wealth of knowledge we store in our brains and making connections between different ideas, we have to solve a new problem, or create, write a new novel — that’s what science looks at when we study ‘creativity.’ Just to drive home the point, this is very much a function of the brain. There’s no need to invoke all that folklore into this. It’s our brains doing what they (are meant to) do (!).”
Every entrepreneur should therefore understand creativity as that borderless continuum of imagination that makes it possible to continoulsy see the world (and its challenges) from different and new perspectives. On these perspectives, innovation is built, and this is what breeds ultimate business success.
The entrepreneur should also realise that creativity is linked to, but ahead of imagination. Creativity is built out of the ability to perceive (imagine) problems in different ways and to able to find hidden patterns, from which connections are made that lead to generating tangible solutions. Creativity therefore involves both the ‘thinking out of a problem’ and the ‘production of a workable solution’. Ideas not acted up make a person imaginative but not creative.
Myths about creativity: It is essential to first demystify the concept of creativity. In most fora, creativity is portrayed as an innate ability that we either have or not! Yes, sometimes some people can have certain advantages that others might not have, from the genes to the environment and opportunities. But creativity, as a skill, can be learned and developed by everyone who is passionate and determined. As individuals, families, and organisations, we can always create environments and situations that foster and nurture creativity in us and in others as well. Creativity is also sometimes considered as only required in the realm of the arts and it comes from the ‘whacky’ ones amongst us. Think Picasso and the fish! On the contrary, the physical sciences as well as the social sciences thrive on creativity. It is just that we actually take it for granted because its end result is almost always simplicity, beauty and function that we don’t always notice it. Our families, friends, and colleagues at work constantly proffer creative solutions to problems and challenges on a day-to-day basis that we fail to recognise or appreciate many. A perceptive entrepreneur must be able to generate, detect and capture these everyday achievements from others. These and several other issues that we will discuss here are important for the entrepreneur to understand so that their organization can be made into a breeding and nurturing environment for creativity.
Benefits of creativity in an enterprise: The creative abilities of the individual entrepreneur and their organization results in benefits such as:
- Providing solutions to customer problems,
- Idea generation from product conception to development and delivery,
- Continous development of better internal systems that can improve productivity,
- Cost reduction in various aspects of operations,
- Relationship development and management within and outside the enterprise, etc.
To be continued . . .