How to Spark Your Company's Creativity

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Scenario: "Dude, we gotta sit around all day and discuss how to be more creative than our competitors. We'll win. Yay!" When you sit in a bubble all-day-every-day-24-7, what happens? You confine your creativity into that vacuum; that gets you generating superficial ideas. If you're gunning to generate super-sweet ideas, venture outside that bubble. We'll explain.

How People Trap Their Creativity

The recent history of the computer industry:

  1. In the 70s, computers came in one color.
  2. Then in the 80s, computers came in one color.
  3. Then in the early-to-middle-90s, computers came in one color.
  4. (Then -- finally -- Apple brought some sweetness into the bland world.)

You look at any industry, and what do you get? Sameness. Blandness. Boringness.

The Web 2.0 crowd?

Gradients. Tag clouds. Huge typefaces. Betas. Blah.

The Real Estate crowd?

Same flyers. Same websites. Same selling propositions.

The car industry?

The same mutha-@^^%^& trucks traveling the same mutha-@^^%^& dirt road. It's as if some marketing geniuses decided: "Hey, let's be creative. Instead of the Colorado mountains, let's shoot our trucks in the California mountains. Yay! We-so-creative." When you confine your creativity into a bubble (e.g. in your industry, office, networking peeps, etc.), you start generating ideas that: Suck. Seeking creativity inside a bubble can only take you so far -- until the public can barely distinguish what's different about you from others in your industry. Instead, here's how to not suck.

How to Spark that Creativity

  • Starbucks founder Howie Schultz didn't scan the American coffee companies to see how he could crush them; instead, he traveled to Italy.
  • Apple dude Stevie Jobs didn't look among the blah computer industry to see how he could innovate; instead, he looked to Picasso.

If you're in your office with your fabulous team discussing ways to spark your company's creativity, we urge you: Step outside. Do something else. Fly a kite. Run a trail. Visit art galleries. Talk to a paleontologist. Whatever you do, venture outside that bubble. What happens when you do that sucka?

  • "Oh-fo-shizzle!" moments come.
  • Creativity "sparks."
  • Subconscious activity that build-up and finally blows up into Eureka! moments.

Venturing Outside = Sparks Associations = Sparks Creativity

Creativity starts by connecting dots. Here's how the scenario works:

  1. Bob runs teddy bear toy business.
  2. Bob ventures outside his bubble.
  3. Bob attends a computer conference.
  4. There, he listens to tha-big-thang: Enabling customers to build their own computers from scratch.
  5. Bob: "Oh-fo-shizzle!"
  6. Bob asks himself: "What if I could do the same thing with our teddy bears?"
  7. Ideas start flowing: "And kids can build their own bears from scratch -- from accessories the bears with shoes, shirts, hats -- to giving it a name, to choosing its occupation!"
  8. Bob wins an award for Most Innovative Business of the Year.

That's probably similar to how Build-a-Bear developed its business in 1997. When you step outside your bubble, you start connecting dots that generate a fresh-flow-of-freakin'-juicy-ideas that rock like a mofo.

Step outside.


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Posted on January 17

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