Creativity in startup companies

I still remember sitting in my math class and learning to untangle a calculus equation step by step. It seemed really hard at that time but we eventually learnt to solve it, well, to some degree I believe! The school system and my teachers believed that even though it might seem tough for us young kids to learn these concepts but it was doable through a step by step methodical process.

The point I am trying to make is that most of the things are learnable, even if you have freaking no idea about them to begin with. It could anything from swimming to playing the guitar to software coding to creativity in building products. Creativity in particular throws off most of the people. Responses like “I am not gifted with a creative mind,” “well, I wish I could, but I don’t have an inclination to thinking outside the box,” are very common. I myself am guilty of this deadly sin.

In past couple of years, I got extremely interested in knowing more about how humans think, how do we make decisions and the ilk. It turns out that there is a systematic way to think outside the box. “Outside the box” is a thought process where you look at a situation, an object, or in an entrepreneur’s case a product or application in a totally fresh way. Yes, easy said than done buddy! How do we do that?

Thinking outside the box is actually a mindset that can be developed by experiencing, learning, and accepting new things into your life. A kid who spent his entire high school life leaning science and math, and then went to the university to study something similar for another 4–5 years tends to develop a one track mind when looking at a situation or a problem set. He/she is probably more analytical when solving every puzzle thrown in front of him/her. The first step towards creative thinking is accepting that you, just all like most of us, are use to a certain way of thinking. Only after you have realized and accepted this, can you make a conscious effort to learn creativity.

Learning creativity essentially means to think differently. It involves:

  • Looking at things and situation around you objectively. Don’t put a label of good or bad on things and people around you. Creativity stems from accepting, understanding, and learning. If you never accept new things and people, how can you ever think something different?
  • Traveling to new places to experience new ways of living life than what you are use to. If you can’t travel, read, just read, just read everything that has even a remote possibility of igniting a new thought in your mind. For instance, read books on how and why Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic or the journey of Abraham Lincoln to becoming one of the most influential presidents in the history of this country. These seemingly unrelated books can trigger, in their own different ways, neurons in your brain that have laid dormant for years. The more new and different materials you throw at your brain, the less likely it is to think in one particular way, and more likely it is to produce radical ideas to challenge the status quo. Remember, to be a great entrepreneur you have to be a novel thinker!
  • Meet a lot of people, if possible people who are different than you, and be genuinely interested in knowing more about them! This again goes back to my previous point.
  • When you are meeting people and talking to them, don’t judge them, be an objective listener, keep your judgements about their appearance, their opinions aside. Learn as much as you can from them. These learnings will facilitate you to come up with novel ideas when you are faced with adversities.

Word of caution, this will be hard, stupendously hard. But, like most things in life — if you want something you don’t have or never had, you have to do things that you have never done. I won’t go into details on this because it is a much profound topic in itself.

Once you follow the above-mentioned suggestions, you will consciously guide your mind to be free of preconceived notions about people and situations. You will liberate yourself from the acceptable, the norm, and deliver something truly extraordinary — for an entrepreneur, it could be looking at an existing situation and producing a unique solution.

Most entrepreneurs view the world through their own lenses that they have crafted for themselves. These views are unique to every entrepreneur yet if you look closely they have their similarities.