Creativity and Innovation
Do you consider yourself creative? Can creativity be developed?
For some people, being creative involves trying not to be embarrassed by their own ideas; for others, it is a matter of being aware that things can be done in many different ways. Some are self-aware or confident enough to have fewer inhibitions and can just let their creative natures work.
Innovation, in a business context, is generally thought of as the product or application of creativity. Peter F. Drucker suggests that innovation “is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship.”
Mr. Drucker further suggests that there are seven sources of innovative opportunity. Four of these relate to a specific industry or service sector: the unexpected; the incongruous; process needs; and structural change. The other three relate to the human and economic environment: demographics; changes in perception, mood, and meaning; and new knowledge.
We can see some of these factors at work in our coffee shop example. The unexpected factor in the recent success of gourmet coffee shops is the willingness of the consumer to spend two or three times the cost of a generic cup of coffee for exotic, flavored or brand-name coffee. An incongruity is the popularity of fat-free desserts (“healthy” indulgence) to go with that coffee. The structural change in the industry is the emergence of franchises. Environmental changes have also contributed to this phenomenon. As the “baby-boomer” generation has aged, the preferred place to meet has moved from the bar to the health club to the coffee shop.
From the Internet site Optusnet, edited by Linda Schiffer, here are some suggestions for things you can do to improve your creativity:
- Study books on creative thinking techniques and put them into practice
- Attend courses on creative thinking and put the ideas into practice.
- Keep a daily journal and record your thoughts, ideas, sketches, etc. as soon as you get them. Review your journal regularly and see what ideas can be developed.
- Indulge in relaxation activities and sports to give the mind a rest and time for the subconscious to digest information.
- Develop an interest in a variety of different things, preferably well away from your normal sphere of work. For example, read comic books or magazines you would not normally get. This keeps the brain busy with new things. It is a common trait of creative people that they are interested in a wide variety of subjects.
- Do not work too hard; you need time away from a problem to be creative after periods of intense focus.
Let us consider information about some current trends to see if we can relate them to potential opportunities in the context of Professor Drucker’s categories. For each, see if you can possibly find a niche on which to build a business:
- The unexpected The International Association for Financial Planning is observing a rapid (to the point of unexpected) increase in calls requesting referrals for financial planners. A spokesperson for the IAFP says, “People are realizing that financial planning is not just for retirement or saving for a child’s college education; it’s for all stages of a person’s life.”
- The incongruous Many Americans are feeling pressed for time, incongruously wishing to lead simpler, easier lives without giving up those activities that take the most time and effort. The opportunity lies in offering personal time-saving products and services that relieve these people of tasks that they find less than fulfilling, not worth the time, or unpleasant.
- Process needs Individuals and businesses are spending unprecedented sums of money to acquire the education, training and skills necessary to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace, creating opportunities in consulting and training.
- Structural change The health-care industry will flourish because of an aging population, myriad technological advances and people’s expectations of readily available medical care. One of the industry’s fastest growing segments is home-based health care, which is well-suited for entrepreneurs because of its ease of entry.
- Demographics The aging population referred to possesses a combination of leisure time and discretionary funds that makes them a great market for new ventures in services relating to their comfort and recreational needs.
- Changes in perception, mood and meaning The amount of money that citizens and businesses spend on security products and services is growing rapidly; the preferred method for many forms of purchase is increasingly becoming the Internet.
- New knowledge In 1996, for the first time, computer sales outnumbered television sales in the United States.
From the website Consortium for Entreneurship Education:
- “The customer is always your first and most important creative challenge. Listen! Try to see the customers problems and needs from his point of view. Restate the problem and the customers needs in his terms and iterate until a consensus is reached. Ask not only what his problems are, but what special methods or tools he is presently using to solve them. Work together with or in the place of the end user or customer. Use fictitious product descriptions to stimulate ideas and discussion. Remember that effective market research and sales strategy requires just as much creativity, enthusiasm and perfection as does product development.”
John B. Vinturella, Ph.D.
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