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What if? Creative thinking for entrepreneurs and small businesses

Be inspiredby Johan30/03/2016

More and more small businesses are looking for ways to be “creative”. Especially now that new technologies enable new ideas and new ways of doing business, creativity is in high demand. But what is creativity? And how can you be creative with business ideas?

Let’s start with the good news: creativity is more than art or artistry. Being creative is about how you look at things, about finding different, smarter solutions for problems you encounter. And in doing so, there’s no harm in being inspired by others. 


Sometimes, creative ideas seemingly come out of the blue. But still, it’s important to take some time out to think about things. So, take a break once in a while: switch of your smartphone and pc and, equipped with paper and pen, find a quiet spot. Not just for 5 or 10 minutes, but for a longer period. And see what works for you: some people have to consciously think about their business to get new ideas, others close their ideas and think ‘What would happen if…”. Still others draw, write, tinker,…. Try it out and see what works! And before you start feeling guilty: thinking is also a form of working! 

To fail is to learn

Creative ideas won’t do you much good if you don’t act on them afterwards. Don’t get put off by idea killers such as “that’ll never work” or “that’s already been done a million times”, or “I can’t do that”. The most important lesson is: a small failure is better than doing nothing at all. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should just throw yourself on any idea you have. You know your business better than anyone else, so you also know which risks you can and can not take. 

You’re not alone

Do you have staff working for you, then right away you’re not the only one who can come up with creative ideas. Because your workers also know your business and they also get good ideas. So make sure they have a chance to get them out in the open. You could do that by having a regular chat, or by installing the good old idea box. If your way of working is up to it, you could even do that digitally with an online forum, for instance, or a private Facebook group. That allows other employees to respond on any ideas others might have.
And what about your customers? They might be able to give you a hand an point out areas of improvement you haven’t thought about yet. 

Steal with your eyes

You really don’t have to be completely original or re-invent the wheel all the time. To quote George Bernard Shaw: “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.” Being inspired by other businesses and learning from their experiences and mistakes is perfectly OK. Your ultimate goal is not to be original, but to be successful in business, right? 

What if?

Creativity is often about looking at things from a different angle. “Out-of-the-box’, to use the most abused cliché ever. But there’s truth in it! Do you have co-workers? Why don’t you swap jobs with them for a couple of days? Get busy on the shop floor or in your store and you’re sure to find things that could be done differently, and better.
Question everything. From the location of your cash register to the way you collect VAT receipts for your accountant. 
The most powerful question in creative thinking is “What if?” Make sure you ask it as often as you can. 



Proximus-writer and small entrepreneur.

Proximus-writer and small entrepreneur.

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