Last week, we looked at creativity in general and how each person naturally possesses a certain amount of this trait. This week, let’s consider how to use creativity as a business tool.

Unfettered creativity and curiosity can be fun but it also can be chaotic. While businesses need to create to thrive long-term, they also need to operate consistently to get to the long-term. This creates tension: stability versus adaptability, status quo versus innovation. Either side of the spectrum need not exclude the other. In fact, the healthiest organizations look for the most holistic solutions possible.

In order to achieve focused creativity in a business, the team must first understand the true aim of the organization. This may or may not align with the nice plaque on your lobby wall. Franklin Covey put out a video a few years ago titled, “Max and Max.” (ATS Media) The pretend company in the presentation thought they enshrined the motto of “Service, Service, Service.” However, when it came to making decisions, the core mission should have read, “We Follow Policy, No Matter What.” The best day was capturing a sale and so-called customer service went downhill from there. This over-reliance on static policy rules stifled creativity and good customer care.

Again, rules and policy are necessary for an organization to operate reasonably well in the short-term; creativity is needed for the long-term health of the enterprise. Here are ways to find the “and” solution of creativity and stable operations.

1. How much decision making ability do you give your front-line workers? Do you stretch your comfort zone on this to create a business environment with focused creativity?

2. How much tolerance do you have for well-intentioned mistakes? Do you treat these types of errors as the tuition of developing a high performance employee? Do you coach employees on how to better put decisions in the context of the organization’s core purpose (not just one of the rules)?

3. Rules and policies should have a finite shelf-life. Do you routinely review (or better yet, have the newest employee review) and recommend changes and deletions?

1. Do you ever spend the last few minutes of your lunch hour daydreaming about how you could make your work place better? What are the things in your control to influence? What small things would make a big difference?

2. If you are a valued worker, you probably have more influence with your boss than you think. If you have a creative idea, how will it benefit the business’ bottom line? What is the return on investment? How will this idea help the company long-term? Are you willing to make a reasoned business case for you latest brainstorm?

3. If you were the boss and could change one thing (highest leverage), what would it be? Now back to reality … can you do things incrementally to move toward this important “one thing” over time?


ATS Media. Retrieved July 19, 2010.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Friesen is the owner of Leading Strategies, a firm dedicated to coaching concierge medical groups and other service organizations to build high performance teams ( Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. with Strategic Leadership emphasis. Michael is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." You are invited to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.