I was invited to be on the panel last night at Covent Garden’s Hospital Club as part of an Entrepreneurs event. There were around 50 owner-managers and lots of lively debate about the trials and challenges small businesses face.
I was asked to talk about how SME’s can use creativity to their advantage. Many studies show that companies that deliver high creative output don’t do it by accident. The same principles that work for the big boys with big budgets, squashy sofas, away-days and huge teams can work equally for SME’s.
So, here are my 5 ways for SME’s to develop a creative culture:
1. Make time for creativity for yourself and your staff. Deadlines might dictate short-term, but being run-ragged is not conducive to being creative. Support ideas wherever they come from.
2. Lead from the front – creativity is a leadership issue and like so many other management challenges leaders have to signal that it’s important to the business. That means creating a climate in which new ideas can flourish.
3. Collaborate. According to IBM, innovative businesses ‘actively seek new viewpoints and give people discretion to take risks.’ If you’re working alone find collaborators, suppliers, friends and associates to input ideas and encourage debate. Use Twitter or other social media to generate and to test your ideas.
4. Be open to ideas. Sounds obvious but if you start every brainstorm or meeting with an agenda and wind up always going with the same old ideas or the ones you had to start with then the desire for people to contribute is reduced. Seek criticism and debate. Ask “how can we make this better?” The mighty Steve Jobs said that “creativity is just connecting things.” The broader your frame of reference on the world the more dots you’ll have to join.
5. Drive creativity through every part of the business, every day. Not just the stuff of away days or think-ins, ask for creativity, incentivise it, reward it. As someone once said “What’s the point of running if you’re not on the right road?” Set creative goals for your business and review them regularly.