Creativity is essential to your business strategy. I’m not talking about using sales and marketing creatively. I’m talking about using your creativity to market and sell. There’s a huge difference. Most people will consider how to use common marketing channels to do something different. But if you really want to stand out, you need to put creativity first and marketing channel second.
When I present to audiences, I often use The Naked Cowboy as an example. Here’s a guy who went to Times Square in his underwear with a cowboy hat, a guitar and great abs. Now he has an empire. When he put his creativity to work, the concept was original. Naturally, he stood out. Visit Times Square today, and you’ll see plenty of copycats. They blend in. They can change their hats, put bells on their shoes or paint their guitars — but as long as they wrap their ideas around something that’s now commonplace, it won’t get them the same ROI as a completely original idea. I believe the same is true in a business strategy.
Creativity provides energy and inspiration to charge your business and helps you stand out from your competition. If you’re reading this and realize you haven’t felt creative in a while, you’ve probably been too focused on work and not focused enough on yourself. That lack of connection also can lead to getting stuck in a business rut.
So, how do you reconnect? Here are eight ways to tap into your creative genius.
1. Talk to a kid.
Children have powerful imaginations and enough curiosity and knowledge to put ideas together in a fascinating way. Listen to how they see the world. Talk to them and color with them. Ask what they think of zippers and buttons, or learn why they think the sky is blue. Even if your own creativity doesn’t bubble to the surface, you’ll probably have a good laugh, at least. And laughter is a great way to lighten up and connect to brilliant ideas.
2. Make something.
Many entrepreneurs I’ve met have an artistic side or a desire to make something new. The act of creation is creativity at play! Whatever your interest — painting, drawing, photography, molding clay — start an artistic project. I recommend choosing one you can complete within a few days. Why? Because this jump-start works best if you can finish the project before you return to your normal routine.
If you haven’t dabbled in art or don’t consider yourself an artist, consider registering for a class. Franchises that specialize in “drunk painting” sessions are great for beginners. You pay a package price for an instructor’s time and all the supplies. Wine or other spirits are available on site. The whole class is like paint-by-numbers for grownups. In less than three hours, you’ll walk away with a piece of art and a fun memory.
3. Go somewhere you’ve never been.
If you can’t take a vacation, consider neighborhood museums, cafes, parks, plays and other destinations. The point is to create a new experience in an unfamiliar setting. This enables you to rediscover how you respond to new stimuli. Bonus points if you get lost and find an entirely new neighborhood you’ve never explored.
4. Do something that scares you.
This is not (necessarily) jumping out of a plane. A few years ago, stand-up comedy seemed terrifying to me. But I confronted my fear. While I was on stage, nothing existed except that moment. And once my act was done, the surge of accomplishment led to many new ideas. Whether you want to overcome stage fright or triumph over another kind of fear, this process will allow you focus 100 percent of your energy on the now. You’ll gain pride in yourself and learn that shifting your attention to another area can pave the way for creativity.
5. Step away from electronics.
Everyone needs a break — the kind that gets you away from your desk. Dare to take a walk without your cell phone and leave work behind. Go somewhere else entirely and pay attention to your surroundings. Once you get outside, make eye contact with passersby or look in store windows and imagine eating the food in your local bakery.
Don’t take selfies of the moment; be in the moment. We spend so much time connected to technology, it’s imperative to reconnect with ourselves and other humans. It can help you find your imagination and creative source.
6. Play music, and dance.
Turn on your stereo and dance around your living room. Or go to a place with music and dance there. Moving your body can connect you to creative thoughts in ways that don’t happen when you watch television or sit in a chair.
7. Start random conversations.
I love the culture of coworking spaces. You get access to the same people, day after day, which means you’re more likely to strike up a conversation. If you’re someone who frequently works with your earbuds in, take them out and introduce yourself to a few people. If you’re really outgoing, talk to random people in the elevator, the street or public transportation. The act of connection and conversation are great ways to spark creativity.
8. Pet a dog (unless you’re allergic).
Therapy dogs exist for a reason: Whatever ails you, petting a dog increases your joy. If you’re happier, you’re more likely to tap into your creative powers.
Keep a journal or pocket notebook with you at all times so you can capture the ideas these activities will generate. The best ideas will come to you at the most inconvenient times and places — or when your smartphone battery is dead and those list-making apps are out of reach. Keep backup journals in the bathroom, by your bed, inside the bags you carry most often, in your car, at your office and anywhere else you spend a significant amount of time.
Wherever you are, you’ll have what you need to write down your ideas and return to them later. The final piece of this process is reviewing what you’ve written and playing with ways to turn ideas into clients and revenue. Dare yourself to be bold, and just watch what happens.