The world’s most successful businesses and innovative products all began with a great idea that required their founders or inventors to stretch their creative muscles and think outside of the box. Coming up with that billion-dollar idea is an essential first step, but it can be one of the most difficult parts of the entrepreneurial journey.
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And the need for creativity doesn’t disappear once you land on that next great idea. If you want to have an advantage over competitors and remain relevant to customers, you have to continue to innovate wherever possible. Again, it’s easier said than done. So how can you make it happen?
As part of a Best Advice series running throughout November, our staff selected the best advice on creativity we’ve heard in interviews and from our Entrepreneur contributors over the past 10-plus months. Read on for these founders’ valuable insights on the creative process.
Make a vision board
“I have a vision board in a bookcase just outside this room that I put together years ago. It has all kinds of things on it, including Kevin Hart, which is funny because I didn’t know him and never thought I’d work in comedy when I made it. And I even had Entrepreneur magazine on there! So to me, being on Entrepreneur‘s list of 100 Women of Impact is like a full-circle moment.” — Thai Randolph, president and COO of Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Network and Hartbeat Productions, from “These Women Leaders Are Changing Lives and Influencing Tomorrow’s Industries—Right Now”
Don’t stay a minute longer in a place you don’t belong
“I just hope that we all take a minute to really evaluate what it is that we’re here on planet Earth to accomplish. If you’re accomplishing that in your 9-to-5 job, great. Then you’re in your perfect place. You’re doing the perfect thing for you and your family and your life. But if you’re there because somebody told you that was the thing to do, and you never questioned that source of information, and now you’re like, ‘Oh crap, what have I done with myself?’, then don’t stay there a minute longer than you have to. There’s a whole world out there that is unencumbered by all those strings and all those requirements.” — Chip Gaines, co-owner and co-founder of Magnolia, from “How ‘Fixer Upper’s’ Chip Gaines Built a Powerhouse Personal Network”
Sometimes it’s good to start from scratch
“By re-examining your decision-making process, you can let go of the knowledge that limits you and discover new opportunities you hadn’t seen before.” — Aytekin Tank, founder and CEO, JotForm, from “How to Break Your Old Thought Patterns and Be Truly Innovative”
Try new, scary things
“Research can only get you so far. Making mistakes, as well as trial and error, is where real knowledge comes from. I have failed hundreds of times, and every single failure has taught me something of value.” — Joey Ruben, co-owner of Happiness Project, from “How This 18-Year-Old High School Student Built a 6-Figure Social Media Consulting Business”
Embrace the messy desk
“Your work environment doesn’t have to be perfect; it simply has to work for you and free your mind. Let yourself get messy, cultivate creativity, and your next wild idea might be the one that helps you go the distance.” — Nick Wolny, founder of Camp Wordsmith, from “Albert Einstein’s Messy Desk Highlights the Surprising Link Between Clutter and Intelligence”
Stop the multitasking
“Focus is not something you have. Focus is something you do.” — Jim Kwik, world-renowned brain coach, from “Struggling to Focus? Here’s Advice From World-Renowned Brain Coach Jim Kiwk”
Kwik suggests thinking about concepts like focus and distraction as if they’re separate muscles: If you work out either of them, they become strong. “Most people are flexing their distraction muscles,” he says — by trying to do 10 things at once, say, or constantly checking their email. So how do you build focus? Stop multitasking, he says, and “start doing focused activities.”
Before writing a whole book, write a hundred blog posts instead
“Writing a whole book can be pretty daunting. And nothing is worse than making it through 30,000 words (about half of a business book), only to then give up. Writing a book is an endurance sport. Like any endurance sport, you have to start small and train yourself up. Blog posts are that training. Short, 500-word blog posts let you start and finish a job of writing quickly. You’re then free to move onto something else. This is unlike writing a book, which holds you ransom for as long as it takes you to either finish it or burn the manuscript in hydrochloric acid. Once you’ve mastered 500 words, do 1,000. Force yourself to write a blog post every week and you’ll soon develop the discipline necessary to work on larger projects.” — R. Paulo Delgado, book coach and professional ghostwriter, from “3 Tips to Help You Finish That Book You’ve Had in You for Years”
Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid
“Never drink the Kool-Aid. I stay away from immersive moments so I never lose the perspective of what the brand is to the world as well as what the brand is to itself. With [my clothing line] GSTQ, I worked to stay philosophically very, very high. Then I could have experienced veterans on my team come in and execute off a principle. For example, our Stadium jacket. It’s based upon the large jackets football players wear on the sideline when it’s freezing. I’ve always been like, ‘God, I love that jacket. How could I make that for myself?’ So we created it, and we put straps in there so that when you take it off, it stays on your body. Your hands are free. You don’t have to carry it. We had so much fun. So I’ll come in deeply and play with that — and then I’ll use data analytics to check myself, because at the end of the day, I’m not making art just for my room. I’m making something that needs to be worthy enough of the transaction. I identify through the success of the companies, and that success is a relationship with the audience. That’s where my success meters lie. So it helps me be more neutral.” —Dany Garcia, founder of GSTQ and CEO and chairwoman of The Garcia Companies, from “Dany Garcia Wanted Clothing That’s ‘Between Athleisure and Power Dressing,’ So She Launched a New Brand Called GSTQ”
Be willing to fail
“This may be a challenge since typically we do our best every day to succeed. So try some new things with your company or team and fail together on the way to innovation. Consider challenging each team member to come up with four new ideas, at least three of which will fail. Give the event a set number of weeks and book a conference call at the end of each week to compare efforts and results. Give fun awards for the most spectacular fails and the most creative efforts.” — Dr. Britt Andreatta, keynote speaker and executive coach, from “Time to Reinvent: 5 Tips for Boosting Creativity and Innovation”