Systems + Processes | 6 Minute Read

Creativity and innovation are essential for any kind of organization. 

Whether you're a major corporation that has to stay on top or a small non-profit that needs to set itself apart from others, there are many ways that creativity can help your organization reach its goals.

Hopefully as you continue reading you'll learn of a new way to add more creativity to your organization. Maybe you'll even hit on your own million-dollar idea! (Just remember me when you do.)

1. New Product Ideas
The most obvious place where creativity comes in handy is in developing new products. Your goal is to make something new that doesn't exist in the world already. You want it to be original but also something your audience can use. Creativity will be essential.

Consider the Sony Walkman. We take for granted that you can carry a music player in your pocket. It's a given that you can take your music with you wherever you go. But this wasn't always so. Sony developed its Walkman during the dark ages of analog music. People listened to tapes and records on giant component stereos and bulky, cumbersome boom boxes.

One day, Sony founder Masaru Ibuka had a creative brainstorm that would change the way people the world over would enjoy music. He asked his engineers to develop a pocket-sized music player that he could take with him on his long airplane trips. Voila! A revolutionary new product was born.

The Walkman was actually an improvement made to Sony's handheld tape recorders. It was a tape recorder that didn't record, but its great advantage was that it was portable.

Creativity can be used not just to create innovative new products, but to make changes to your products that make them more useful or convenient for your users.

2. The Product Development Process
Regardless of the products you develop, you can always add some inspiration to your process to help in generating new ideas. By changing the way products are made, you can create better products and increase product development efficiency.

Apple's product development approach is a good example. It's the exact opposite to what most companies do. Instead of pumping out products of all shapes and sizes for the market to devour, Apple releases one product at a time. By putting all of its energy and resources into that one product, it’s able to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Many years ago, Apple had another creative idea. While computer makers in the early days started by considering what their technology could do and then making products accordingly, Apple started with its customer. It considered its customers' needs and desires first, and then tried to develop the technology that would deliver the wanted experience.

Today, this is how most companies operate. Apple turned the way we develop products inside-out through its inspired approach.

Thinking outside the box means to reject common assumptions and go beyond the norm. It's important because you can only come up with truly original ideas that set you apart from your competitors if you think this way.

Let's look at Apple again. Apple is a company that's made thinking outside the box the norm. Steve Jobs went far outside the box when he brought together two totally opposite things—computers and calligraphy—to change the way computers were made.

Jobs spent a great deal of time studying calligraphy and he brought this knowledge to his work with computers. He incorporated calligraphy in the Mac computer's basic design by giving it multiple fonts for use. This was one of the things that made it so popular. Today, it's a given.

If you're creating an alliance with other organizations or a joint venture, who do you seek out? You probably look for a those that are similar to yours. But apply a bit of creativity and you can build an unusual but strong alliance.

This happens at a local level when two groups team up to cross-market. An example would be a travel agency hooking up with a luggage store. When people book their vacations, they often realize their luggage is old or inadequate. This sends them to the luggage store to buy something new. A travel agency can offer deals at a local luggage store, and vice versa.

Another example is a real estate brokerage and a local pizza shop. What does real estate have to do with pizza? Not much on the outset. But pizza is the traditional food for people who haven't unpacked yet. It's also nice to get a recommendation for a good pizza shop when you're new to the neighborhood.

Here's an interesting example from Japan – Beer vending machines that offer free Wi-Fi. First of all, yes, there are beer vending machines in Japan. And people often crack open their newly purchased beverage to have a sip at the point of purchase. Since Japan is a nation of smartphone junkies, it only makes sense that as long as someone is standing around the vending machine, they'd love a little internet access.

You can use creativity individually for great results, but you can also apply the same techniques and exercises to groups of people in a larger company by creating a corporate culture that's fueled by creativity. You can do this by challenging and encouraging employees to try out new ideas.

This is exactly how GM recovered from its bailout and restructuring. The company had always focused on the bottom line – building and selling a large quantity of cars to maximize profits. But with the restructuring, it ditched its strict production process and standard operating procedures and created an entirely new business culture that focused on nurturing the creativity of its individual employees. Removing the barriers to creativity allowed the company to innovate and focus on quality rather than quantity.

When people worked in factories or offices, they were cogs in a big machine. They had a job to do and their performance at work depended on how they did that job. Today, we live in the information age, which is run by knowledge. Ideas are the most valuable resource. Learning how to apply creativity to your business is essential to its success.

Creativity isn't necessarily something you're born with. It can develop through habit, and anyone can learn the habit of creativity. All it takes is practice and a willingness to be open to new ideas. Here’s to your success!

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