Starting a new business venture can be a daunting task. There are so many different things to consider; from product creation and implementation to marketing, staffing and finance, for example. For those who take the plunge and use their entrepreneurial skills to create a start-up, the first few weeks and months of business are a pivotal time period.
One area of business that new entrepreneurs often fall short in this initial time period is creativity. Creativity is hugely important in making your business work, providing it with longevity, and keeping your start-up fresh, exciting and interesting for your customer base. An entrepreneur and their team must have a creative spark in order to generate new ideas and keep the business developing at a favourable pace.
It can sometimes prove extremely difficult to find that creative spark and keep those awesome ideas flowing, however. Sometimes creating a business can become all-encompassing and time-consuming, and owners and their staff can simply burn out and lose their creative mindset. So how can you stop this from happening? How can you spark creativity and encourage new ideas within your start-up? The following 5 ideas should hopefully give you food for thought and help you beat that troublesome creative mind-block that often troubles new businesses!
1. Take care of, and stimulate your employees
For a new start-up business (unless you are working on your own), your team of staff is one of the most important assets you have. This team of individuals is what drives your business, makes it work and helps it flourish. It is also what helps drive creativity and generate new ideas. Without a dedicated team of employees/co-workers, you may struggle to find any creativity at all – you may even struggle to function as a business.
Some businesses simply see their employees as a means to an end – they are simply a number on a piece of paper and they are employed to perform a designated task. This mentality does not encourage creativity or breed a sense of pride. This type of employment ethos is typical for large corporations who do not need their workers to generate ideas and play an active role in business development. Conversely, this is NOT the attitude to employment a start-up business needs – a start-up business will need all the help they can get from their employees, therefore, a different approach must be taken.
If you take care of your staff, you will inadvertently boost their output and encourage creativity. Furthermore, if you genuinely care about the wellbeing of your employees, you will put your business in good stead for the future. You will not have to deal with high staff turnaround and you will have a team of individuals that care about your start-up and making it succeed. So how can you take care of your staff to boost their creativity? The following are some simple methods that should help:
Instil a team mentality
In a new business, you ideally want a group of employees who work as a team, not as individuals. Although individuality can be great for creativity, teamwork also helps. Encourage employee interaction, friendly competition, and build a strong sense of camaraderie among your staff. This will create a fantastic atmosphere within your office and help your employees feel happy in their work.
Create a fun and stimulating working environment
To improve your employees’ working life further, you should ensure that their actual working environment is fun and enticing. Consider having a restroom that is kitted out with comfortable chairs, a TV and even something like a pool table or games console. Also look at making their actual workspace comfortable and fun too – allow them to bring in their own mementoes and ornaments to personalise their desks, etc. Staff who are comfortable in their working environment will often have improved productivity and creativity.
Encourage breaks and downtime
Finally, you should never expect your employees to work flat out without a break. If your employees do not take adequate breaks, they may become tired and lose enthusiasm – they could also simply burn themselves out. This is hugely counterproductive for creativity. Bearing this in mind, you should always encourage your staff to take breaks and spend time away from their workplace. Set out break times for your staff, and be sure that they do not work full shifts without respite!
If you do the above and put your employees first, you will naturally encourage creativity. Happy and healthy employees who genuinely care about your start-up business are preferable to employees who simply see their job as a means to an end.
2. Make use of visual aids and tools
Visual aids are a fantastic way of stimulating creativity. People often generate ideas with ease when they have visual aids and representations to look at. The following are several interesting visual tools that can greatly help boost creativity within your start-up business:
A mind map is a diagram that is used to provide a visual flow of ideas and information. The centre of a mind map is usually the central idea, i.e. a product or business process for example. Spanning from this central idea, there may be other pointers and snippets of relating information. A mind map is one of the most basic and effective methods of representing an idea. Consider making use of mind maps when creating ideas for your start-up – involve your whole team and use mind maps to generate ideas and organise your creative ramblings into a coherent diagram.
A flow diagram is similar to a mind map, but it helps to show the flow of information in a structured manner. A mind map is generally random ideas relating to one certain subject. A flow diagram will provide a flow of information within a system or process, for example from start to finish. This could be used to denote a product lifecycle for example, from initial production, through to dispatch, sale and invoicing. Use flow diagrams to help define business processes – when you have a visual representation of a process, you should be able to easily generate relating ideas.
A vision board is effectively any type of notice board on which you place your ideas, dreams and goals for your business. A vision board is a fantastic tool to provide a focus for your start-up business and workforce. Consider creating a series of vision boards relating to different parts of your start-up business to generate ideas, spark creativity, and also instil a sense of direction and purpose within your team. Ensure these vision boards are visible to your entire workforce and that they can also have input into their contents.
By implementing visual aids such as the ones outlined above, you can greatly improve both your own and your employee’s creativity. You can also create a positive workspace full of meaningful diagrams and tools that will help your business grow.
3. Concentrate on a niche market or audience
Creativity can sometimes become stagnant or non-existent when a business attempts to concentrate on too many concurrent ideas. Furthermore, a business can lose focus when they try to appeal to too many different markets or customer demographics. Whilst having a wide focus can sometimes help business and generate new custom, it can also be counterproductive, exhaust creativity and turn your start-up into something bland and generic.
Consider choosing a niche market or audience, and concentrating solely on it. Creating a niche for your start-up will greatly help the creative process. You can focus your attention on that niche instead of trying to find creative solutions for a wide variety of different ideas. You will find that when your mind is focused and you have a clear subject to concentrate on, creativity will be forthcoming. As time and your business progress, you can always expand your niche and explore new possibilities – you do not need to limit yourself to a niche permanently, but it will help greatly in those precious first months.
4. Take your work outside of the office
Research has shown that an office environment can become stifling, oppressive and counterproductive. Working in an office every single day of the week can strain both you and your employees. Furthermore, an office can suppress creativity and force our minds to become lethargic and uninspired. When you are continually surrounded by the same four walls, same décor and same setting day in, day out, your creativity can dip dramatically.
Whilst it is nice to have a workplace you can call your own, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend every minute of your working life there too. Too many businesses stick avidly to the traditional method of an organised workplace. Too many businesses suppress creativity unwittingly by conforming to the norm of having a dedicated office for their workforce. Too many start-ups put extra pressure on their team by sticking them within those same four walls every single day.
Consider breaking convention and tradition. Consider bypassing the norm and the long-held belief that a business and its employees need an office. Take your work out into the world. Take your team away from their four walls and expose them to culture and a change of scenery. Consider having a working day somewhere completely different such as a local park, a museum or a city square.
A change of scenery can inspire creativity. When people are exposed to different settings, their minds become refreshed and invigorated – they take in the new surroundings and it helps stimulate their brain. This doesn’t have to be overdone, but every once in a while consider breaking away from your office to help break the oppression and lethargy.
5. Allow your mind to become sidetracked
As we have mentioned above, a niche can greatly improve your creativity. One thing to consider, however, is that concentrating solely on one subject can often exhaust our brain. If you continually train your thought process onto one subject, your mind can simply become worn out and you can actually exhaust your creativity. Furthermore, you may simply end up replaying the same thought process and ideas in a continuous loop and be unable to generate anything new.
Whilst we avidly advise carving a niche for your start-up to help focus and creativity, we also advise allowing your mind to wander and become sidetracked. Allowing your mind to become sidetracked can help prevent exhaustion and stagnation. It can help keep your brain active and stimulate your thought process further. It can refresh your brain and give your mind a rest from the strenuous process of generating new business ideas.
We are not advising that you stop working completely for four hours to watch TV instead, but you should have regular breaks at work and maybe spend some time doing something else, even if it is for 5-10 minutes at a time. Read a book, watch a video on YouTube, talk to your co-workers about their weekend, solve a sudoku, make a drink – do something that gives your mind a break and allows it to become sidetracked on something other than business. These small moments of change can really help your creativity.
As you can see, there are many ways in which you can find that creative spark and keep your thought processes flowing. Creativity doesn’t always come naturally and it is in your best interest to improve your working situation to help stimulate creativity within your employees and yourself. We hope that these ideas have set your own creativity flowing and opened your mind to a wider range of possibilities to ensure the continuing creative development of your start-up business!