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The Four Cs in Your Creativity Toolkit for Building a Business

The Four Cs in Your Creativity Toolkit for Building a Business

Building confidence through creativity is at the heart of what I do, and it is also the axis around which I grew a business.

As an entrepreneur, I rely relentlessly on my educational background in creative fields. I pursued undergraduate and graduate degrees in design. People ask me, “Why did you abandon design?” and I reply, “I didn’t, I use it every day!”

How? Because creativity is a catalyst for leadership development and business growth, no matter your industry or background.

I spent eight years in an educational environment in which prototyping, revision, peer review, and collaboration were the primary modes of learning. Every day, you shared your work and asked for feedback.

At the beginning of this marathon in the world of “feedback,” I was terrified. By the end, I was indignant if someone dragged in late or un-caffeinated, and wasn’t prepared to give their best attention. This learning process fed directly into my creative tools for entrepreneurship.

I like alliteration; it’s a useful memory trick. Let’s dive into the 4 Cs in my creativity toolkit for helping a business thrive.

[Related: Is Design Thinking a Catalyst for Innovation?]

1) Concerns (vs. Solutions).

Most people lead with their solutions rather than concerns – and they mistake their solutions for their concerns. However, identifying your concerns as distinct from your solutions and teasing out the concerns of others is incredibly illuminating.

A frank fill-in-the-blank style conversation is best: “My concern is _______. I hear your concern is _____.” Then, with all concerns on the table, you can be more creative and successful with the solution.

Often, people have different concerns, but can reach a solution that addresses both. Other times, people may have the exact same concern, but are leading with wildly different solutions. Identifying that common area is key to strong solutions.

2) Constraints.

The more pressure on the situation, the more you are forced to think and look beyond it. Sometimes, there are outside constraints beyond your control (financial, physical space, time, etc.). Other times you can self-impose constraints in order to model useful scenarios and creative solutions.

For example, a sudden financial constraint can be one of the best ways to control costs that you should have been looking at months ago. A space constraint can build your remote co-working team, and constraints of resources can lead to clever efficiencies that, in the end, will allow a project or business to scale with clarity and purpose. Use constraints to your advantage.

3) Critique.

Evaluation is important. In large businesses, critique is formally built in. In smaller businesses, it is easy to skip, but important to integrate. Critique can be applied to individuals and teams, or projects and lines of business.

Person-to-person critique.

Some people are more comfortable with critique than others. Know your own style, and get to know the styles of others. Critique should be designed in a way that allows the people involved to feel secure enough to be thoughtfully transparent.

Reviews are one of the biggest signs of respect – if you don’t give people honest feedback, you are giving them the opportunity to fail. Additionally, you should ask for honest feedback of yourself – this should be a two-way street.

Project/product critique.

User critique is your best avenue for refining a project or product. My motto here is: Get something to 80%, maybe 90%, and put it out there. The final 10% will take you just as much time as the first 90%, and you don’t know how it will land anyway.

Metaphorically speaking, “throw some color on it” and launch it. You will see how it sinks or swims, and this will be the most valuable feedback you get at that point.

[Related: Four Critically Important Rules For Getting And Giving Feedback]

4) Collaboration.

Human resources are your most valuable resources. Diversity of thought, experience, and perspective is fuel for the creative engines.

Do not completely surround yourself with people who think like you or act like you. A little tussle can be productive. In fact, in a leadership role, part of your job is to protect the dissenter.

Being a dissenter is a hard position, and a team moves forward only with a variety of perspectives. Push, prod, elicit, and collaborate. If you yourself have come against a significant obstacle, turn to people and ask them! They will bring observations that can be quite delicious.

An engaged person is a powerful person – primed to offer ideas and perspectives that can support a business goal in a totally new way.

In sum, creativity is an opportunity in every part of your life – from how you construct a project to how you to construct a team, from how you tackle a small budget to how you tackle a big decision.

The power of creativity comes in going out on a limb, into an unknown space. The power of that unknown space is that you are gaining knowledge, experience, and perspective at an accelerated rate. Creativity is your rocket fuel, so don’t be afraid to use it!

[Related: How to Build an Effective Team with a “Me to We” Shift]

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Samantha Razook is the founder and CEO of Curious Jane, an educational content company for girls ages 6-11, with projects and curriculum revolving around science, engineering, and design.


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