Ever feel like you’ve hit a wall with your business and aren’t sure how to break through to the next level?
Here’s the secret: If you want to grow your business and expand your influence, you have to embrace your creativity.
Creativity is a loaded word for a lot of us. Some of us see ourselves as very creative; others don’t see ourselves as creative at all.
If you’re like I was for many years, you do see yourself as creative, but in the midst of building a business and raising a family, you’ve put your creative self to sleep. Maybe you’ve let those hobbies that used to bring you joy slip, or you’ve always felt like writing just for the fun of it, but it never makes it to the top of your priority list.
Of course, creativity does show up in running your business. It shows up in the innovative process you’ve created for doing bookkeeping, the social media posts you create, and the products you design. And those things matter.
But do you know what matters even more—and what will ensure that your well of ideas to grow your business never runs dry?
Upping your creative thinking and self-expression outside of your business, too. Yes, that’s right: A “not-related-to-work” “for-no-reason” creative outlet will grow your business. And I’m excited to show you why.
So, without further ado, here are 10 practices that are scientifically proven and personally tested to up your creative thinking skills and ultimately expand your business.
1. Repeat after me: I AM CREATIVE.
To be human is to have creative power. And to be an entrepreneur is to channel your creative power into a business that makes your heart sing and serves others.
Even if you don’t feel creative, I promise that you are.
Creativity is innate and immediately accessible to all. Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel once called the brain a “creativity machine!”
I’ll prove it to you: Think back to your very first creative moment. I guarantee you have one. It may have been the first picture you drew or a lemonade stand you had as a child. As children, we all used curiosity and imagination to make sense of our world. But slowly, we began to trade imagination for implementation and playing for production.
Not only do the demands of adult life get in the way of our creativity, but also our brain’s capability for self-monitoring increases as we grow up. Neuroscience research proves that among creatives there is lower self-monitoring brain activity when they’re creating.
They key to getting to this place of lower self-monitoring is by declaring to yourself that you are creative and by consciously turning off your judging brain to unleash your imaginative brain. It’s so much easier to uncover your natural inventiveness if you believe it’s there.
2. Let Go of Originality
There are so many brilliant business ideas that never come to fruition because entrepreneurs think that their idea is already out in the world.
Here’s what I know: If you want to start a jewelry company but feel like there are already so many jewelry companies in the world, you’re thinking about it wrong.
Creativity is not always making something that no one has ever seen before—instead, creativity builds upon other things that have already been created. Think about it: it’s not possible to invent something totally new, only to improve something that already exists or to put your own expression into something. All ideas have been done before—they just haven’t been done by you!
If you’re in the development stage of building a business, stop trying to come up with a totally new idea, and instead think about what ideas you could build on. What’s one thing you could improve or two things could you combine to create something new?
3. Go on a treasure hunt for time and space.
In order to come up with great ideas to grow our business, we have to create the right conditions for our imagination to flourish.
One of the problems I hear most is that people don’t have time to be creative. If you identify with this, start watching the words you say to yourself: you’re not really “running out of time,” “wasting time,” or “low on time”—you just have to use it in the right way.
Where can you find an hour in your day for your creative passion? On your lunch break? By waking up an hour earlier? By shutting off your phone and closing your laptop an hour before you go to bed? Lack of space can also prevent creativity—which is why I recommend shifting things around in your home and at work to make way for the perfect creative space.
Time and space are hard to find as a busy entrepreneur—I get it! But by setting boundaries around when you work and when you’re spending time and space on a “frivolous” creative passion, you’re going to boost your ability to be more creative and innovative when you are working.
4. Loosen up.
Once, when I was leading a workshop on Guided Creativity at P&G, I noticed that a table of women was stuck and stopped generating ideas. I told them to get up from their seat and walk around the table to loosen up. And guess what? That table ended up creating more ideas than any other! Why? Because movement produces endorphins and endorphins change your energy and elevate your mood.
Play and positivity promote creativity more than anything else. Neuroscience research shows that individuals are more likely to solve complex problems when in a positive mood.
As an entrepreneur, you’re responsible for generating new ideas to expand your influence—which means that time spent exercising, laughing with friends and doing what you love will, down the road‚ contribute to your bottom line. Don’t skip it!
5. Limit your resources.
Let’s be real: An empty page, a blank canvas and a bare wall can be totally intimidating. If you’re feeling stuck, limit the possibilities! Give yourself a specific amount of time or allow yourself to only use one kind of resource.
Maybe that means decorating a room entirely with things you buy at a local antique shop. Maybe you start a series of social posts that are just about your office space, or you brainstorm business growth ideas that only have to do with using connections in your city.
It’s amazing how much more inspiration comes when you set parameters around your creativity!
6. Get curious.
“It is only in walks that are a little too long that one has any truly good ideas.”
This quote from one of my favorite voices on creativity, Brenda Ueland, speaks to the power of observation in creative thinking.
Start small: On your drive to work, turn off autopilot and practice noticing everything you see.
As you go, you’ll be able to start getting curious about growing your business. Opt-in for someone else’s newsletter through a lead magnet so that you can see how they market their products.
Pay close attention to how commercials are using empathy to sell their product. Read books and blogs about the journey of famous entrepreneurs.
It’s not a waste of time (within reason) to let your curiosity run wild and learn as much as you can.
7. Reframe it.
If you have a problem that you need to confront creatively, try looking at it through a new lens.
See potential, not problems.
See opportunities, not obstacles.
See chances to create, not challenges.
Try getting out of your normal realm of experience. I call this “detribalization.” Go to places and connect with people outside of your normal circle. This doesn’t have to mean traveling to a different country, but it can! I learned so much and left inspired after a trip to Bali.
Don’t be afraid of collaboration, either. Cross-pollination is a powerful tool. Ask for feedback from trusted mentors and work beside other people doing great work. Why do you think so many tech start-ups are next door to each other in Silicon Valley?
8. Challenge Assumptions
What are you assuming about the way you have to do business? You don’t have to do it the way it’s always been done.
Look at the standards set in your industry, and try going the other way to give yourself an edge.
Does everyone in your industry blog? Start a podcast.
Does everyone else use a text-heavy powerpoint when doing presentations? Don’t use a powerpoint at all!
Is email marketing the method every other business uses to market? Go back to snail-mailings.
Talking to your ideal clients in a way or in a space that’s less crowded can be amazingly effective.
9. Embrace failure (privately)
Successful innovations result from trying different approaches and keeping what works—which means throwing LOTS away. Embrace failure as part of the process, and if you can, fail privately.
Pitch your business before you feel ready, and learn from how people respond. Ask a friend to go through the ordering process for your product so that you can work out the kinks before a customer places an order.
10. Believe that creativity is vital.
Tapping into your creative power leads to confidence, awareness and happiness. Based on a study by the APA, happiness and creativity go hand-in-hand. Not just that—60% of CEOs polled say that creativity is the most important quality to have in a leadership role! (Fast Company)
In their work, entrepreneurs who embrace creativity are more self-directing, confident and aware. In life, creative entrepreneurs solve problems with ease, view the world through a richer lens and truly enjoy life more.
If you’re ready to uncover your creative purpose or if you are ready to creatively take your business to the next level, let’s spend a day together! I love doing Creative Strategy Days with people to create a plan for executing brilliance. Click here to set up a discovery call with me!
Elle is a veteran entrepreneur and creative strategist who takes businesses to the next level and helps thought leaders expand their influence. As a pitch coach for Aviatra’s LAUNCH cohorts, she uses her background as a professional actress to help women explain what they do with confidence and presence. Visit her website here.