Creativity is like a child. It doesn’t have a plan or agenda. It isn’t waiting for any result or appraisal. It has no idea about linear time and space. It is only waiting to be expressed. That’s it. It’s like a game that you are playing for its own sake — just for fun, not for anything else. My friend, a gorgeous and talented artist, once said as she looked at her own paintings: “Nothing is being drawn here. It all just comes.” And as I looked too, I literally felt how all those animals, trees, roads, and vivid colours just appeared on her canvas and stayed there. Creating a piece of art is a channeling; it is a flow that comes through you. Your body and your skills are merely tools giving it a structure.
Entrepreneurship is a special kind of creative flow. All gorgeous things and successful businesses that materialised on our planet were once just an idea.
Think about it: Everything was once just a thought.
Successful businesses and impactful projects don’t come from business knowledge or business background or having a business plan. They come from the same source as playing a game or creating a painting. The difference is that a business has an agenda; it’s whole purpose is to attain something. In entrepreneurship creativity, we become wired for accomplishment.
Here, we as creators want to bring some VALUE to the world. It is a part of the game, and yet this is the part that traps many entrepreneurs and creatives. In fact, this part can cause so much tension that some will just drop their ideas without even starting. For them, it is not the fear of being seen, nor the fear of failure — it is the fear of STRUCTURE that causes lots of talented ideas to never manifest into a meaningful project.
An idea by itself is a huge experience. When you suddenly catch some great idea, you experience a “WOW!” moment. It gives you lots of energy and joy. But in order for it to be expressed on a practical level, it needs linear development, consistent tempo, an organised structure through which it will generate VALUE.
That is why so many creative people (on all levels, including business) unconsciously get attracted to people who are good at building structures. This union — creativity and structure — is a key factor for successful enterprises. When these two meet, either as two business partners or two aspects of the same person, this is when the entrepreneurship flow really happens.
How to Access Entrepreneurship Flow
Let’s look at these two parts of flow so that we can understand the importance of balancing each perspective when launching a project.
Firstly, let’s recognise that the flow is a life force that knows where it is going. The controlling power is already in the flow, otherwise it would be a splash. So exerting some kind of control over this flow makes no sense and only leads you to getting stuck. But the flow without an “attracting force” also doesn’t exist. That is why it is a “flow” not a “splash” — it is going TOWARDS something. Ok?
Second, being overtaken by the idea and having lots of fun with it is not yet being in a state of flow, unless you are five years old.
Third, since the flow already has an attracting force within itself, it doesn’t need to be controlled. It has to be allowed to go where it is flowing.
And fourth, if the splash doesn’t take a form of flow by itself, it can be created. It is being created either by YOU yourself realizing a need for a structure, or by someone else who is better with structures then you are.
This where your creative force gets converted into the entrepreneurship flow — it’s the skill of breaking an idea into a process without intervening into the process too much, yet maintaining the flow.
Whatever their talents, many starting entrepreneurs know nothing about these two components of a successful project and how to balance between them. They get unbalanced, and they end up getting frustrated or stuck at the very beginning. I sometimes visit start-up networking dinners in Silicon Valley, and it is amazing how many bright entrepreneurs of different ages and backgrounds have almost no understanding about their product (especially in “creative sector”) when they are pitching their projects to business angels. They don’t have any authentic feel for their target audience, nor do they have any philosophy of their brand. These struggling entrepreneurs can be roughly divided into those who need some adjustment to their structure, and those who simply fit a project management position much better. In fact, both would benefit from partnering with each other before pitching in front of investors. Rarely have I seen teams that had both skillsets from the start. And in the start-up world, this is totally fine. In fact, that is what networking is all about — to find each other and learn from each other.
However, if you are launching your project by yourself and you don’t have a mentor to supervise your launch (and especially if you are a creative yourself), you better understand this balance.
Very often the creativity/structure union is formed by two people within a certain project (this happens for couples too, there are many famous couples like this), but not always. Sometimes you have to learn how to develop it in one person. It takes time for these two components to recognise each other and start speaking to each other. With the union of two people, it usually happens very organically. But when you are a solopreneur, and you know nothing about the importance of this balance within your project or business, you may experience lots of inner conflict with understanding even how to start. It is not until you become aware of it that it will start changing.
Moreover, breaking it down to steps can be a creative process. Visualising and understanding a structure for your idea to become a project, making architecture from a mass of energy, is also a fine art. If this process is seen as being “not creative” and “boring,” it becomes heavy, too left-brain. In fact, it can create resistance to the idea.
Remarkably, I have seen that sometimes one and the same person can become better in one role just depending on the chemistry within a project. For myself, I tend to be very good at structuring for others’ people ideas (something I’ve learned in the corporate world), but when it comes to putting my own creative process into a working “grid,” I prefer having someone else supervising me.
On a business level, these two components are presented by a well-known leader/project manager union. And only when there is rapport between these two people will the business enter “the flow.” So if you are a start-up and you are forming a team, make sure you understand this. If both of you are overflowing with creative energy, it is not yet an indicator of future success; the same goes if you both are super well-versed with management processes and can create a business plan in a minute.
Did you hit the flow?
What are the signs that your emerging project or business hit the entrepreneurship flow?
Your project or business is showing signs of some RETURN. It may not necessarily be financial return, but at least you can sense there is an EXCHANGE happening. Your idea is getting notices. People like it and want to learn more; investors are interested to talk about further development; you are enjoying the ripples your idea produces; and what’s most important is that your most valuable asset — YOUR TIME — remains YOURS, not someone else’s. At a certain stage it will certainly have to convert into a financial return, but with all the above in place, the idea is validated and the overall process is right.
If you are missing any of the above, chances are you are overwhelmed, not getting enough feedback on your idea, have a sense of a “missing link” you are unable to find yourself and feel there is no exchange happening. Instead of burying yourself in writing a business strategy or just stressing out, take a step back and observe which of these two components needs attention: creativity or structure? If it is creativity, you are overthinking and micromanaging too much and getting lost in the structure. If it is structure, you are probably not clear enough about your project’s direction and its key factors. Sometimes you are not able to step back enough yourself to see the broader perspective. This is when you will need help from a third party. Ask for this help. It will save you time and money in the end.
Entrepreneurship flow is a stage of project development when the balance between creative forces and structuring forces are optimized to the max, which produces returns on both external (from the world) and internal (within a team or yourself) levels.
Like all living organisms, your enterprise goes through different periods of life, and going out of the flow is an organic stage of development for any project. This can mean two things: it is either dying or unexpectedly growing.
Think of it like two hemispheres of the brain. When it comes to brain activity, the state of flow is when the right and left hemispheres are maximally in sync. I was doing research on these conditions as a neurolinguist during my university days, and I know that it is not easy for a human being to enter the state of flow at will. But we can develop this ability, and in fact, this is what all effective people do knowingly or unknowingly.
When putting our ideas into projects, too, we should be able to know how to tap into this flow intentionally and be able to maintain it.
Also published at cmajor.co