How Enhancing Your Business is like Composing a Symphony
There comes a time in every business venture when things need to be shaken up — sometimes drastically, other times just a bit. Either way, one can’t just clap her hands together and say: “Hey team—get creative!” The world does not work this way, much to our dismay. Sometimes even the most creative minds hit a road block. This is where guidelines, incentives and wishful methodology come into play.
Renowned composer Garret Hope started an organization called Composer on Fire to “help composers achieve their goals and thrive in the art of composing.” However, much of Hope’s project also relates to the everyday business owner and employee. Like writing an intricate symphony, leading and maintaining a successful business requires a tremendous amount of creativity.
Hope came up with 20 unique habits that he believes creative people should adopt to increase their productivity. In regards to his list of productivity enhancing habits, Hope had this to say:
“Many of these habits are concerned with our brains and optimizing brain performance. As composers, and creative people in general, our brains are our most important tool. Our society is moving away from the Information Age, where linear, sequential, and logical thinking ruled, and towards a Conceptual Age, which is ‘built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities‘ of [right-brained] thinkers. And as James Altucher has claimed, ‘ideas are the currency of the 21st Century.’”
Hope’s 20 unique habits for creativity range from getting a proper night’s sleep and eating better, to collaborating and setting goals.
Of course, Hope is not the only one to speak about ways to enhance creativity in the workforce. A recent study focused on the role of incentives (e.g., performance-based salary) in sustaining high-creativity production. The study was revolutionary as it was one of the first to actually test sustaining high-creativity production after incentives had been removed. The results suggested “important implications for the use of performance-based pay in organizations that benefit from creativity.” Many employees and employers may not be thrilled about the idea of performance-based salary, but according to the study, it might help to incentivize working harder and more efficiently.
Take Mike Maddock, for example. A recent interview with Inc. shared that the CEO of Maddock Douglas has helped 25 percent of Fortune 100 companies create new products, services, and business models. In the interview, Maddock spoke about his personal tips for “swiftly taking any team on a path toward practical creativity (Inc.).”
Regarding his effective approach toward productive creativity, Maddock said: “the best leaders are masters at reframing difficult issues as wishes. They take these wishes to their brightest people to tackle together. For example, rather than saying, ‘We can’t get that through legal,’ a masterful leader might say, ‘I wish we could find a way to get that through legal.’ Then they sit back and watch the wish come true.”
From composers to CEOs, and everybody in between, creativity is a necessity for running a successful business. But enhancing your employee’s creativity is not always as obvious as popping out of a paper box and throwing handfuls of glitter at them or painting a wall neon orange. So how to go about inspiring the uninspired?
- Break the Rules: If you always follow the same rules, you will always get the same results. But when it comes to creativity, interruption is its best friend. Create a safe place where your employees can brainstorm, create and innovate. Fear can be a great hindrance to creativity. Make it clear that in the designated safe zone, no one outrageous or “crazy” idea is going to get them fired. After all, madness and genius go hand in hand, right?
- Eliminate Ego: For centuries, ego has gotten in the way of innovation and productivity, ending in catastrophe. Let’s be clear: It is impossible for everybody to know everything. So the most important takeaway is that your employees feel comfortable in their unknowing. If you let them know that it’s OK not to know, then the ideas will start flowing in abundance. Funny how that works.
- Develop the Creative Space: If your employees are forced to sit day after day staring at a white wall in a boring office, creativity might be a little sparse. Even if your company has a low budget for interior design, sit down with your employees and ask them what you could do to make their office space more inspiring. Maddock suggests companies “start by giving your folks an individual primary space that is private and allows them to focus. Then, and only then, create lots of cool open areas where the team can easily gather and collaborate.”
- Have a Filter: When brainstorming, there are going to be a lot of ideas flowing. Brainstorming is a wonderful thing, but not every single idea is going to be. The important point to get across to your employees is this: there are no bad ideas, but not all of them are useful. Maddock suggests creating criteria for what “great ideas” look like and implementing guidelines from there.
- Just Breathe: Integrating meditation into the work environment is commonplace these days because it can lure out creative ideas for even the driest of topics. Consider establishing a designated mediation space in your office, or encourage employees to take a meditation break during the day when they are feeling fried. Meditation is one of the best ways to get the creative vibes buzzing, along with having a trove of health benefits.
Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (NY: Riverhead Books, 2005), 2. 1
James Altucher, “Become an Idea Machine,” The James Altucher Show Podcast AA Ep 191 (January 19, 2015)