by James Caan, CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw
March 15, 2013
As the chief executive of a private equity firm I am always on the look-out for the UK’s brightest and most innovative talent. My role as chairman of the Government’s Start-Up Loan scheme has made me become even more aware of the need to be constantly watching for the best creative talent in the country.
Creativity can be a difficult notion to grasp but it is a key talent that is always found at the heart of any successful company. I would say that true creativity, along with drive and self-belief, are the defining characteristics of any successful entrepreneur.
Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognised expert in education, leadership and innovation, has described creativity in an easy to understand and succinct way. He wrote that creativity is “the process of having original ideas that add value”.
That is a straightforward definition, but the real difficulty comes in actually being able to think differently or “out of the box”. It is a very rare and valuable skill to be able to come up with ideas that are truly original and different to anything currently out there on the market.
Creativity always has to be relevant but it is crucial to the success of any business. Without originality, businesses have no way of differentiating themselves from their competitors in the market place. Being different from rivals has become increasingly important in the modern business environment.
Taking all of this into account, I believe it is vital to encourage staff to think differently and this can be done in several ways.
• Give your staff the time and the space to be imaginative and creative. Apple is a great example of a company which has benefited enormously from this. Up to a fifth of their working day is given to creative thinking sessions. Innovation is a key characteristic of the company so it is vital for Apple to inspire staff and to give them the space to be original.
• Constantly question yourself and your working practices. Instead of sticking with tried and tested methods, business leaders should always be thinking of alternative approaches when it comes to solving issues and problems. Simply posing the question can lead to new ideas and projects, which opens up valuable income streams.
• Encourage people to work in groups. That way, ideas can be shared along with responsibility and the credit for success. A company which has an overly competitive and individualistic culture can stifle creativity.
• Not every idea is going to be a great idea but it is important not to ridicule people who are brave enough to think differently from the rest of us. If people are scared of being mocked then they are going to be reluctant to step forward with new ideas.
• Running a business and hitting targets is serious as people’s livelihoods rely on the success of a company – but the creative process needs to be fun. If you want to inspire people to think differently then you have to create the right culture and environment to allow them to do just that.
However it is important to remember that creativity on its own is not enough to guarantee success. The focus should always remain on how to use innovative thinking to make the company financially successful. Stick to these rules and there is every chance you will have a success story on your hands.