When I was a boy, our family of eight lived in a small house. In the corner of the basement was an art room for my father. In the evenings and sometimes on weekends through long winters, he would go down and work on his oil paintings.
I remember watching him as he mixed his paints on a wooden palette, and the unforgettable scent of the paint and turpentines.
I was fascinated with the creative process as he applied layers. The pictures took shape over days and weeks to become something beautiful that eventually hung on a wall in our house.
Business owners around the world are getting creative now. They’re mixing up the different aspects of their business on a big palette. They’re using their imagination to modify the current reality to form something they hope they can be proud of in the future.
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Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of business owners who have focused on diversifying or pivoting their businesses to enable them to create something different.
Some are attempting to shift their business model online. Others are reframing the business with new systems and processes to navigate through uncertain waters. And there are those who are taking the canvas and painting over the old image with something totally new.
Many artists will tell you that before they start, they have a concept of what they’re trying to create. They may not know exactly what the end result will look like, but they have a picture in their mind of what they want to fashion. Sometimes they’ll sketch it and other times they go from a photo.
Unfortunately, in business we often forget that important concept of clearly knowing what we want the end result to look like before we begin. The muddled outcome is often a picture no one wants to see.
Messing up on a canvas usually means we’ve lost a few dollars in paint and a few hours of our time. It might not worry us because we’ve benefited in the process: doing something creative reduces our stress.
Messing up in business can be more serious. We might invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, in addition to weeks, months or years of work and energy. Yet the business can be an absolute failure for the simple reason that we didn’t take the time to sketch out what we were creating.
A sketch might be a drawing of the business. But more likely it’s the effort put into thinking through our value proposition, determining what it is our customer will benefit from and then testing our assumptions.
Recently I worked with a business owner who wanted to shift his business entirely. As we discussed his concepts, I thought I saw some flawed assumptions. Rather than discount the idea entirely, I asked him how he was going to test out the idea.
He worked through a variety of options and decided he was going to try to test out the idea on a few of his ideal clients for a minimal cost without painting the whole picture or building the whole business.
This would allow him to see if there was value for his potential customers before he made the whole shift he was considering.
Creativity is essential in business, and we need it to ensure that our businesses are able use it to create and adapt products or services that meet the changing needs of our clients.
Engaging our teams to facilitate the necessary ingenuity that will allow us to survive and thrive in changing economic climates is essential today more than ever.
Using common sense and practical measures to test the validity of our creative output is even more essential than the creativity itself.
My father never became a great artist and over the decades was known more for his logical thinking than his artistic endeavours. Yet his art lives on in paintings that hang on the walls of his house and in the minds of his children.
David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy.
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