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How Business Owners Can Increase Their Creativity

Creativity is a key part of any business owner’s skillset. Without vision and imagination, no one would take the plunge and launch their own business. However, with the responsibility of forming a eye-catching brand, entertaining social media feed and compelling online presence, you could argue that an entrepreneur’s creativity is more important than ever. Increasing and channeling this creativity into innovative branding and inventive business practices could well be another stepping stone on the path to success – so how can you make yourself more creative?

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Take a step outside the situation

The buzzword in coming up with creative solutions to difficult problems is “psychological distance” – and it is truly helpful. As a entrepreneur, you are intimately acquainted with the details, structure and particularities of your business, and sometimes this knowledge can actually hold you back. It’s about not being able to see the wood for the trees – like when you can see an obvious solution to a friend’s problems, but they are completely oblivious to it.

Ask yourself how an outsider may view your decisions. For example, if you are making a branding decision, it’s probably highly informed by your own feelings and insights into your business. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you might actually be limited by this, and perhaps too reliant on your familiarity with the details. Imagine someone who has no clue about your business is looking at your brand – does it still make sense? Are they any other, more interesting and original, ways to interpret the brief which you might be missing because your ideas are so set in stone?

Manage your stress

Nothing kills creativity more than chronic stress, and this isn’t something that business owners find easy to avoid. The reality of being in charge of an organisation is that you are ultimately answerable to everything that goes on within it – so even if a mistake isn’t your fault, it’s still going to be your problem. Learning stress management techniques is vital not only for your peace of mind, but also your ability to come up with new ideas and perform, even under pressure.

Stress is extremely distracting, sending you down rabbit holes of rumination and worried thinking that it’s difficult to dig yourself out of. It also inhibits our prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that’s responsible for higher functions such as problem solving) as our more primitive, “fight or flight” mechanisms take over. This is why it’s nearly impossible to think in a rational way when you are panicking – ask someone to solve a logic puzzle or paint a picture when there’s the the Sword of Damocles hanging over their head, and the results aren’t likely to be very good.

The solutions to stress are surprisingly pretty simple: it’s just a case of getting out of bad habits and implementing them. Firstly, you need to make sure you take breaks – and try, as much as possible, to not take your work home with you. Even if you are in the office until 9pm, once you are home, that’s it – it’s time to relax. And no matter your workload, get a sensible amount of sleep each night. All-nighters may be ok once in a while to put an important pitch together, or to break through a backlog, but they will dramatically impact your health and happiness if they become a regular occurrence.

You should also find a habit that reduces your stress. Meditation is a good option, having been shown to result in lower levels of stress hormones in those who have taken up the practice, while exercise (such as biking to work) could also really help.

Reframe and challenge

One technique people use when they want to think more creatively is to approach the subject in a variety of ways. So if you are thinking about the tone of voice you are planning to use on your social media, imagine at first that your brain is in “free-thinking, instinctive” mode. Plan some content that’s off the top of your head; things you find funny and entertaining, and very much to your own tastes. Then, reframe the task so you are at your most pedantic and business-like, and undertake a complete re-write – how would your tone of voice look then? This will encourage you to consider things from a variety of perspectives, flag up issues and stumble across ideas you weren’t expecting.

Another good exercise is to challenge yourself with different creative conundrums. For example, you could radically limit your options. Maybe you need to put an advert together, but recently they’ve come out looking a little tired and clichéd – what’s a common denominator that you can deny yourself in the next process? It may be that you always use stock photos of people. Imagine that this option is no longer open to you. In fact, you aren’t allowed to use any photography at all. How are you going to solve the problem now? The result could be unexpected, and even more successful.

You don’t need to tie yourself to any of the ideas you come up with, but it’s always better to have a number of concepts of the table, rather than struggling to make one half-hearted idea work.

Holly Ashby is a writer who is interested in corporate wellbeing, and how business owners can get the best from themselves and their staff. She currently works for Will Williams Meditation, a meditation center who help businesses increase productivity and reduce stress through a form of transcendental meditation in London.

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