By Maurie Cashman
How do you use creativity in designing your business planning to include your ownership transition plan? The two should be tightly integrated and this requires creative thinking to get you â€œout of your boxâ€ and it may require some adjustments along your journey.
â€œCreativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
–Scott Adams, American cartoonist and writer
Leading vs. Creating
Not every owner nor every employee is a creative thinker. This is important to understand. You do not need, and probably donâ€™t want, twenty creative thinkers running around your organization. That is likely to lead to chaos and potentially anarchy. It is critical that you objectively assess whom in your organization have extraordinary creativity skills and then to develop and use them effectively.
So how do you identify the creative thinkers? The first thing to do is to assess yourself. Most entrepreneurs think that they are the creative force behind their business and relish this role. While that may have been true when you started your business, circumstances may have changed your role. You may now be in more of a leadership role in which you need to evaluate ideas rather than create them.
Two things are likely to happen if you remain the creative force while also playing the leadership role. First, you are likely to confuse the rest of your team if you are constantly coming in with new ideas that you want to implement. As the leader, your team is looking to you for stability and setting overall direction and strategy. Second, many entrepreneurs are trapped unconsciously in the thought process that â€œif I didnâ€™t think of it, it canâ€™t be good.â€ This will have the effect of shutting down creative thinking from the rest of your team.
Not All Ideas Are Going to Work
Your job has likely evolved from that of creative thinker to that of evaluator of creative ideas and providing leadership and support to your creative thinkers so that they know that you have their back and can tolerate some mis-fires along the line.
I had the great fortune of working with a very creative senior executive who liked to say that 90% of his ideas were bad but the 10% that worked made the company millions. He also said that it would be a disaster if he were leading the company as that was not his primary skill set. Not all ideas are going to work and you must be willing to allow some failures to get to the million dollar babies. You also do not want 50% of your staff running around implementing ideas that have not been vetted. You canâ€™t afford the failure rate that will go with that.
Pick out the people with the greatest creative skills on your team and give them the lead on ideas. This is not to say that you should cut off otherâ€™s creativity. Rather, set your system up so that the ideas that come up are run through the one or two creative leaders for refinement. In this way you will also be mentoring the next generation of creativity. This is the art of implementing creativity.
Creativity in Your Business Planning
In a strong team environment it is important that you incorporate creativity into your business planning process. Part of this is exposing the creative ideas to other senior people for vetting and adjustment. Creative thinkers are not always good implementers and sometimes donâ€™t understand all of the implications of their ideas on the organization. On the other hand, non-creative types will shoot down anything new. Your job as a leader is to balance the inputs you receive and incorporate the feedback so that good ideas are not lost but are improved and adjusted so that they can be incorporated.
Make certain that new ideas are supportive of your long-term goals as you implement them into your business plan. Just because it is a great idea does not mean that it should be used if it does not take you further down the path of building the value of your particular business. Some ideas will just take you too far away from your core and can actually destroy value in an organization. While the may still fail, be certain that you have the basic competency to implement new ideas.
Get Outside Perspective
There is nothing like having someone look at your organization from an outside, objective perspective. Creative types need to be supported and nurtured. They also need to be harnessed properly. A trusted advisor can help you to lead your group properly and can also help to identify ideas that should be implemented that might otherwise be killed by the system. They can also provide new ways of thinking that will fuel your creative people.
It is critical that you recognize your role as a leader, find and nurture your creative people, allow for mistakes, use creativity in your planning process and get outside perspective. If you do these things you will create greater value in your business.