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Five things that stop companies embracing creative thinking

Creativity is one of the buzzwords of business today. It’s well recognised all businesses need to think smarter, more creatively and strategically in order to keep innovating, growing and being successful. However, there are often so many perceived and real barriers in the way to adopting and integrating an effective creative thinking process into a business. Below are five of the key inhibitors to companies truly embracing applied creative thinking:

  1. Believing creative thinking is disorganised thinking

When we think of creativity, many of us have the impressions of the dishevelled artist, randomly applying paint to a canvas. Organised chaos and just not relevant to the more disciplined environment of a corporate office or hi-tech manufacturing business. However, creativity is a spectrum, not a singularly defined concept and as such, has multiple applications. After all, don’t forget all businesses start with a creative thought – an idea to create a new product, offer a different service and so on. Yet, somewhere along the line following that, some businesses seem to very slowly wean them themselves off, or talk themselves out of, the very creative process that helped establish them in the first place.

  1. Lack of leadership

While applied creative thinking is a powerful business process, it is not a science, and is, like all business processes, prone on occasion to failure, confusion and misdirection. As such, adopting a culture that embraces and places creative thinking with a commercial focus at the heart of its operation takes determination and resilience. It can require strong, courageous and empathic leadership, someone with the strength and the vision to see it through, especially in the face of resistance, sceptics and the ever-tempting desire for the comfort of the status quo.

  1. Misunderstanding what creative thinking is

‘Creativity’ has a brand perception issue. For many – both professionally and personally – there are two primary reactions to the word – it’s just ‘fluff, without substance. It’s for artists and actors not for business’ or ‘I’m not creative, that’s not for me.’ But, to subscribe to either of these is to misunderstand the creative thinking process. Applied creative thinking as it relates to business is all about rallying against the old adage, ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. It’s all about adopting tools and processes that enable a business to think differently, with a fresh, energetic, more strategic and entrepreneurial perspective to try and find different solutions to problems or new avenues and opportunities for growth, productivity and commercial agility.

  1. Not knowing where to start

I’ve come across lots of business leaders, managing directors and executives who want to integrate applied creative thinking into businesses, but just don’t know where to start. They look at the changes needed, look at the incumbent approach /culture, look back at the changes needed, and it all seems too big a mountain to climb. But, the world doesn’t have to change tomorrow. A solid implementation plan driven by a committed team is what is required. Strong, positive change can take time – so take small steps, but make them purposeful and focused.

  1. Fear of failure

This is the big one – for businesses and individuals alike. The fear of failure. And, when comes to creative thinking in business, this can occur at multiple levels: the new, young executive who comes with fresh ideas and perspective but is too nervous to propose them for fear of being laughed at or ridiculed. The middle manager who doesn’t put the radical idea forward for fear of jeopardizing their career, and the leader who doesn’t have the strength or the confidence to embrace new ideas, think differently and be brave and bold.

At the heart of all of this is the fear that ‘my idea is rubbish’ – not clever, creative or strategic enough. However, what we all need to acknowledge is that very few ideas come perfectly formed and as such, shouldn’t be feared. Ideas often arrive ugly, unstructured and untamed. It’s up to individuals and companies to then test them, reason with them, mould them and then be courageous enough to act on the best ones, otherwise growth is stifled and innovation stunted.

Failure is natural, frequent and good – if we recognise it for what it is – a critical part of the developmental process. We need to we learn from it and ensure its worst excesses are cushioned by a collaborative and supportive business that understands the importance of failure. Because failure, managed effectively, is the key to creative success.

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