From the December 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

How are you doing at building a creative company? Creativity is much more than a few techniques that you pull out of a drawer every now and then. It's a way of relating to yourself, your staff and the business environment. It can provide the spark that keeps your company motivated and competitive.

Creativity requires good systems as well as good intentions. You're well on your way to becoming a creatively agile company if you do the following:

1. Clearly articulate creativity as a core value of your company. Put it in your mission statement; affirm it in internal company communications. Make encouraging creativity part of managers' performance evaluations. And continually reinforce the message.

2. Set aside time to deliberately evoke creativity. Experiment with techniques to help you generate ideas. Two books that contain many useful techniques are Jump Start Your Brain (Warner Books) by Doug Hall and David Wecker, and Thinkertoys (Ten Speed Press) by Michael Michalko.

3. Add a creative exercise to meeting agendas. Dedicate 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of meetings to a creative exercise that encourages people to think innovatively. Set aside time on a regular basis to use creative techniques.

4. Study creativity. It takes time and attention to become proficient at any skill. A good overview book is Corporate Creativity: How Innovation and Improvement Actually Happen (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) by Alan G. Robinson and Sam Stern.

5. Constantly seek new input. This will enrich the possible associations and connections you can make when creating. Take time to get out and meet people, go to events and read. Research what other companies are doing to encourage creativity.

Don't forget to ask for ideas from everyone in your company, no matter what their job description. Establish systems that elicit and value everyone's contribution.

6. Learn how to step out of tension. Too much stress limits your ability to be creative. Give yourself permission to take breaks; learn some simple relaxation techniques. Sometimes, just three deep breaths can make a big difference.

7. Develop a stance of openness and curiosity. Cultivate your ability to delay judgment. Don't quickly dismiss what seem like crazy ideas-they may lead you to some very interesting places. "I wonder what would happen if . . ." should be a frequent refrain.

Finally, don't stop here. The possibilities are endless.


Juanita Weaver is a creativity coach and consultant. Contact her at juanita@juanitaweaver.com.