Content Creators with absolute ingenuity are a very rare breed … and that’s why you’re bound to succeed very fast and get ahead of the herd by deliberately aiming for offbeat ideas. Research suggests that barely 9% of entrepreneurs who try online marketing ever come even close to success. The rest (91%!) are hopeful aspirants, working very hard for visibility, but only growing more indistinguishable with every passing day … buried under the information overload, their content barely seen, read or shared. There is a huge mountain of information out there on how to do online marketing. But a whole lot of it, as we can all see, just deals with implementational knowhow. Very, very few articles teach you to put “breakthroughs first and how-tos later”.
To see if you’ve got the mindset of a creative thinking entrepreneur – a true blue content creator – see if you’re one who commits to be different by deep intent. I’ve curated this epic list of creativity-spurring ideas from the best in the business who’ve written about their Content Creation Process. Read this list with attention because there are some great insights here. And remember: creative thinking is a mind-set. It is not rocket science. It can be learned by wanting to be creative and by watching good examples. And it’s more about keeping your mind agile, alert and tingling. The opposite of creative thinking is entrepreneurial lethargy and apathy. That wasn’t what you dreamed of when you started out your business, right?
#1: Instead of just thinking outside the box, change the box!
Imagine that we asked you to invent an idea for a new business in the next 20 minutes. The task is so broad and vague that you would probably think you couldn’t do it. We have often seen people give up without really trying when confronted with such an amorphous challenge.
Instead, let us pose a narrower question: What do Rollerblades, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, and Spider-Man movies have in common? The answer is they are all based on the same business concept. In each case, a firm has taken something children love and reproduced it in an extreme, more expensive form for adults. The same notion has led to over 25 new product categories, including gourmet jelly beans, baseball fantasy camps, $200 sneakers, 20-foot-high sand castles for corporate parties, paintball, space tourism, and Disney collectibles.
What did we just do, and why did it work? In our quest for breakthrough ideas, we didn’t ask you to think outside the box. Nor did we ask you to think more intently inside your usual box. We gave you a new box and asked you to think inside that.
Most managers and professionals are quite capable of thinking effectively inside a box. They live with constraints all the time and automatically explore alternatives, combinations, and permutations within their confined space. We have found that if you systematically constrain the scope of their thinking (but not too much), people are adept at fully exploring the possibilities, and they can regularly generate lots of good ideas—and occasionally some great ones. Setting the right constraints is a matter of asking the right kinds of questions: ones that create boxes that are useful, but different, from the boxes your people currently think in.”
From the article “Breakthrough Thinking from Inside the Box” by Kevin Coyne, Patricia Gorman Clifford and Renée Dye
#2: Know the difference between productivity and creativity!
Business leaders tirelessly chase productivity. Everything we do — every hiring decision, every software purchase, every reorganization — all boils down to wringing out just a little bit more. Productivity is the turning of the gears, the day-to-day execution and (hopefully) excellence that keeps the lights on and the numbers in the black.
Creativity, on the other hand, is inherently disruptive. It’s the burst and spark of a new idea so brilliant that it interrupts whatever you’re doing just so you can get it onto paper. At a glance, it also appears to be completely opposed to productivity. You can’t quantify it. You can’t measure it. It simply is. That’s great for developing big ideas but maybe not so much for those looming deadlines.
Can productivity and creativity really be balanced or are they fundamentally at odds with one another? I believe that creativity leads to productivity, provided that the workplace environment is developed and nurtured in a way that allows the two to peacefully co-exist.”
From the article “5 Ways Creativity Leads to Productivity” by Boland Jones
#3: Dare to be a non-conformist and a systematic rule-breaker!
Highly creative entrepreneurs are rule breakers who don’t like to conform to norms and traditions of the industry. You refuse to be bogged down by established practices, bureaucratic structures, or arcane business processes. You like to work autonomously, outside the established organizational practices, where you can think and create freely.
You constantly push the boundaries, always experimenting with new ideas to sort the good from the bad. It is this ability to experiment, usually in the face of acute uncertainty, that gives you the potential to generate innovative paths to profits.
A word of caution: While highly creative entrepreneurs are independent spirits who like to work autonomously, implementing ideas requires working with a team. Lack of communication with your team or too much separation from ongoing operations can hurt the development and integration of new products or services into an existing business.”
From the article “Great Entrepreneurs Are Creative Thinkers” by Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal
#4: Hang on to the innovative surge you started out with!
Let’s face it. You started out in business because you had a brilliant idea, a creative brainwave. Your entrepreneurial mindset could see the potential of the overall picture. But what happens next? It suddenly becomes more important to deal with the mundane detail, the day to day actions of actually running a business. Financial plans, finding suppliers, product manufacture, sales calls, staff meetings, budget planning, tax returns, VAT returns – the list is endless.
How can anyone find time to be creative under such an avalanche of business obligations? The simple answer is that if you are the innovator in your business, you shouldn’t also be running your business.
You need to free yourself to once again become the creative genius that shaped your business in the beginning.”
From the article “Five ways for entrepreneurs to encourage creative thinking” by Ian Usher
#5: Always keep seeking difficult mountains to climb!
Creativity is a continuous activity for the entrepreneur, always seeing new ways of doing things with little concern for how difficult they might be or whether the resources are available. But the creativity in the entrepreneur is combined with the ability to innovate, to take the idea and make it work in practice. This seeing something through to the end and not being satisfied until all is accomplished is a central motivation for the entrepreneur. Indeed once the project is accomplished the entrepreneur seeks another ‘mountain to climb’ because for him or her creativity and innovation are habitual, something that he or she just has to keep on doing,” says Bill Bolton.
This is why entrepreneurs, disturb markets, ‘thrive on chaos’, and can challenge large established businesses.”
From the article “Entrepreneurial Creativity” by Vadim Kotelnikov
#6: Don’t discard your business mind in favor of a totally creative mind!
Creativity helps us think of how to improve existing business practices. A brand might be very established and popular among the consumers, but there is always something that can be done differently from them and in a better way. A creative mind is like an artist who creates new and exciting patterns on canvas. Creativity can come up with the most unthinkable ideas and bring innovation into existing practices.
However, a creative mind has to have entrepreneurial skills to bring those creative ideas to life in a business setting. An entrepreneur assesses the requirements of how to execute an idea by analyzing available vs. required resources, how to establish a new enterprise and how to manage it. An entrepreneur designs business models that can support and execute innovative ideas in the first place. An entrepreneur provides the ‘science’ aspect about how to bring the artistic creativity to life. Therefore, an entrepreneur bridges the gap between the creative genius and a traditional business approach.”
From the article “Why Creativity is so Crucial for Entrepreneurs” by Anastasia Belyh
#7: Treat boredom as a creative resource and use it to get out of the rut!
People underestimate the value of being bored. If you work around screens all day, if can often prove both relaxing and rewarding to just get up and walk about for a bit. Let your mind wander instead of focussing on a task so hard it hurts.
Take a walk around your local woods, indulge yourself in your own personal contemplation montage as you skim rocks across a pond. Let the miracle of nature, and that brief moment of what is hopefully peace and quiet, inspire and energise you.
Similarly, many believe that the practice of meditation, clearing their mind of all thoughts and allowing themselves to be at peace, is a fantastic method to help spur creativity. Although I’ve never personally tried it, I can see how people might find it rewarding.”
From the article “8 Creative Thinking Techniques and The Tools To Use” by Harry Gardiner
#8: Challenge what you know, and also what you think you know!
The real difficulty of creative change isn’t the implementation, it’s uncovering what we aren’t seeing.What makes creative thinking so difficult is also what makes it valuable: it challenges both what we know and what we think we know.
The real struggle to innovate stems from the danger in the latter of the two. How can we change and improve what we don’t realize is broken? How can we escape our routines, or default habits, if we can’t look pass them? Even when we attempt to change something, how can we be certain our solution is the ideal one?”
From the article “What a Toothpaste Factory Teaches Us About Creativity” by Tanner Christensen
#9: Value the times when your mind is tired because creativity can be at its best!
Unlike solving an analytic problem, creative insights come from letting our minds wander along tangents and into seemingly unrelated areas. Though many of us identify as morning larks or night owls, peaking in our problem-solving skills and focus at particular times of the day, creative thinking actually works better at non-optimal times. So, if you’re a morning lark, your brain will be better at finding creative insights at night, when you’re tired.
The reason behind this is that a tired brain struggles to filter out distractions and focus on one thing. It’s also more likely to wander off on tangents. While that seems like a bad thing when you’re working, creative thinking actually benefits from distractions and random thoughts. Research has shown that we’re better at “thinking outside the box” at our non-optimal times.”
From the article “10 Surprising Ways to Transform Your Creative Thinking” by Belle Beth Cooper
#10: Get further away from your problems to find solutions creatively!
Over the past several years, social psychologists have discovered that creativity is not only a characteristic of the individual, but may also change depending on the situation and context. The question, of course, is what those situations are: what makes us more creative at times and less creative at others?
One answer is psychological distance. According to the construal level theory (CLT) of psychological distance, anything that we do not experience as occurring now, here, and to ourselves falls into the “psychologically distant” category. It’s also possible to induce a state of “psychological distance” simply by changing the way we think about a particular problem, such as attempting to take another person’s perspective, or by thinking of the question as if it were unreal and unlikely. In this new paper, by Lile Jia and colleagues at Indiana University at Bloomington, scientists have demonstrated that increasing psychological distance so that a problem feels farther away can actually increase creativity.”
From the article “An Easy Way to Increase Creativity” by Oren Shapira
#11: You can’t win with being creative once, it’s a non-stop endeavor!
If an entrepreneur succeeds with an innovative new product, she can be sure that other entrepreneurs as well as established companies will promptly build and launch competing products. Usually, those products will be better than hers in some way. As a result, the entrepreneur can never sit still. If her creative idea succeeds as a product, she will need to use creativity to innovate her product on a continuous basis. Sometimes, she may even need to redesign or rethink her product.
The concepts behind companies like Airbnb (which allows people to rent their guestrooms and homes to travellers) and Uber (which connects people who need rides with drivers willing to drive people for a fee) are relatively simple. As they have succeeded, people have launched similar companies, most of which are probably better than Airbnb or Uber on some level. As a result, Airbnb and Uber need to innovate to stay ahead of the competitors. If they do not, they will promptly lose marketshare to the new upstarts.”
From the article “Creativity and the Entrepreneur” by Jeffrey Baumgartner
#12: Shuffling around your resources can loosen your creative elasticity!
How can you arrange existing skills and assets into new combinations that add up to more than the sum of their parts? The awareness of “limitless capacity for developing, stretching and synthesizing resources” is the hallmark of an innovator. Innovators are focused not just on business performance but organisational creativity. They have an “elastic view” of their company and re-purpose, re-deploy and re-combine assets and competencies in innovative ways.
Examples include Disney, Corning, Google and Amazon stretching their skills and knowledge across a wide range of properties. Spain’s Grupo Matarromera also shows how companies can tap under-utilised assets; it makes cosmetics from grape skins discarded during wine-making. Imperial Billiards makes wooden pellets from unused sawdust; Raytheon converted a heating phenomenon from its radar experiments into the microwave oven.”
From the article “Four lenses of innovation: how entrepreneurs can get creative insights for business success” by Madanmohan Rao
#13: Use inner motivation more than external rewards to make you more creative!
Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated — meaning that they’re motivated to act from some internal desire, rather than a desire for external reward or recognition. Psychologists have shown that creative people are energized by challenging activities, a sign of intrinsic motivation, and the research suggests that simply thinking of intrinsic reasons to perform an activity may be enough to boost creativity.
“Eminent creators choose and become passionately involved in challenging, risky problems that provide a powerful sense of power from the ability to use their talents,” write M.A. Collins and T.M. Amabile in The Handbook of Creativity.”
From the article “18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently” by Carolyn Gregoire
#14: Realize there can be many right answers to any problem!
One of the worst aspects of formal education is the focus on the correct answer to a particular question or problem. While this approach helps us function in society, it hurts creative thinking because real-life issues are ambiguous. There’s often more than one “correct” answer, and the second one you come up with might be better than the first.
Many of the following mental blocks can be turned around to reveal ways to find more than one answer to any given problem. Try reframing the issue in several different ways in order to prompt different answers, and embrace answering inherently ambiguous questions in several different ways.”
From the article “Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking?” by Brian Clark
#15: Regularly exercise your imagination muscles to keep them trained to act!
Brainstorming, ideation, thinking outside the box, disruption, creative thinking – whatever you want to call the process of developing successful new business approaches – is something that must explore every day in your business. You have to let go of things that are holding you back, and take chances in business, especially after that first great idea.
You cannot will a new idea. But you can train your imagination, like a muscle with regular exercise, to conceptually blend dissimilar concepts from different contexts, leading to original ideas and insights. How long has it been since you have conceived and implemented a really creative idea in your business?”
From the article “Entrepreneurs Need Creative Thinking After the Idea” by Martin Zwilling
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Creation Process”:
- How To Use Visual Content To Create More Appeal In Your Blog Posts!
- The Best Strategy You Can Use To Do Outstanding Content Curation!
- Brand Storytelling: Inspire Your Customer To Play A Stellar Role!
- How To Kickstart Your Content Marketing With Total Confidence!
- To Use Social Storytelling Powerfully, Learn To Mesmerize Your Readers!
- 4 Easy Ways To Give Your Content Creation Ideas A Big Boost!