"In the age of global capital flows, only centers of innovation will be able to permanently capture the interest of investors," says the World Bank in its advice to nations. In today's evolving global economy, companies disregard being innovative at their peril. Apple Computer, for example, exists today because of innovation--ironically, not its own initially. The fact is, Xerox passed on innovative product ideas, like the computer mouse and graphical user interfaces, and let Apple run with them. Could the United States follow in Xerox's path by allowing other nations to develop the creative ideas of the future?
Not if creativity consultants have their way. It's the American way to use consultants in response to crises and challenges, and that's just what we're looking at today, according to author Richard Florida, who points out in his new book, The Flight of the Creative Class, that we face tough, worldwide competition for creative talent.
And that's where creativity consultants come in. They help individuals develop the thinking skills necessary to be effective, competitive and relevant in the current economy. They help organizations define problems, recognize opportunities, and develop new products and services by finding out-of-the-box solutions to produce innovation. Like never before, companies are recognizing that innovative thinking is a requirement for success in the emerging world economy.
While some use the term creativity consultant to describe specific services such as copywriting, presentation development and design work that ranges from information to interiors and products, creativity consultants often provide a combination of project consulting and training to client companies and organizations.
Project consulting involves facilitating task groups organized to address a particular problem or opportunity a company would like to focus on. Training involves presenting workshops to develop creativity in the participating employees. (Some creativity consultants choose to offer public workshops, but in addition to presenting a stimulating workshop experience, this presents the additional challenge of filling workshops and providing suitable facilities.)
One big area of interest for companies using creativity consultants is with their marketing tasks, such as choosing effective product names and slogans. Synectics Inc., a creativity consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, helps clients with their marketing efforts as well as assists them with the development of new products and services. And while Synectics serves the Coca Cola's and Nestles of the world, most new creativity consultants begin serving smaller companies and non-profit organizations. In fact, volunteering your services is a good way for a beginning consultant to develop a track record.
Some creativity consultants coach individuals; however, a search of the International Coach Federation's database shows that coaches who list creativity as a specialty do so as an aspect of a more broadly defined coaching practice.
Startup costs are comparable to those of other consultants with the primary expenses being for marketing costs and the ability to pay living expenses until your practice yields a full-time income. Some specialty software, such as IdeaFisher and The Idea Generator Plus, can be helpful, particularly for projects involving marketing. You might also want to consider reading the following books:
- A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech
- Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Cracking Creativity by Michael Michalko
- The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan
- Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono
Paul and Sarah Edwards are homebased business experts and consult and coach on the subjects of the 16 books they've written. Their latest book is The Best Home Businesses for People 50+. Free portions of their books are available at www.workingfromhome.com.