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How Do Entrepreneurs Engineer Creativity?

by Hype Staff

Innovation. Disruption. Inventiveness. All words that describe entrepreneurship. But there’s another one you don’t hear as often (especially in the tech world) which may be the true secret sauce to thinking up and launching a novel endeavor — creativity.

Defined as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, or relationships, in order to create meaningful new ones, creativity is a powerful entrepreneurial force. It also is a challenging one to foster — though it can be taught, it must be carefully nurtured; though it can be constrained and structured, it must also be given freedom to take flight. For those entrenched in the time-consuming business of running a company, maintaining those creative juices requires dedicated time and careful forethought.

We collaborated with our friends at Creative Loafing, who deal in the art of creativity every day. As Atlanta’s premiere alternative newsweekly, they uncover the best stories in culture, music, and the arts. And this award-winning publication was a startup itself, beginning as a family-owned business and expanding to what they are today.

With their help, we go directly to the source to find out how entrepreneurs’ creativity grounds their innovation, where they find creative inspiration, and how they cultivate creativity when they’re feeling blocked.

Javier Santana | co-founder and creative director of Launch, a digital strategy and branding agency

Do you consider yourself more left- or right-brained (logic-minded or creative-minded)? 

I’d say about 80 percent right brained, 20 percent bacon.

How do you compensate for the other side when running a business?

Entrepreneurs are masochistic and like to wear all of the hats and not delegate, which is a recipe for disaster.  You have to be honest with yourself and admit what you absolutely suck at, then find someone you trust to help you. I was fortunate to find a partner that I trust and we have great balance.

How does creativity play into the business portion of your job as an entrepreneur?

There’s no room for complacency in this business. As technology evolves, we have to evolve with it, so we’re constantly thinking of new ways to position ourselves and make sure that we’re always forward thinking. That requires a lot of creativity, exploration and caffeine.

How do you “design” your life for productivity?

With lots of discipline and digital tools. I usually get up no later than 6 a.m. to get my day started before all of the noise starts ramping up. That helps me get organized and gives me time to prioritize. Plus, nowadays there are so many digital tools that keep us organized and on track. If I had to carry a backpack full of tools for everything my phone does that it didn’t do 10 years ago, it would be the size of a VW Bug.

How do you engineer creativity when you find yourself “stuck”?

I drink.

Well, that and I look at others for inspiration.  I spend a lot of time getting inspired on Twitter, Tumblr, Muzli and some Art/Design blogs, but sometimes the best thing to do is unplug. I go for a long walk, hop on a kayak for a few hours or just ride my bike to let my mind wander and get inspired by my surroundings. Atlanta is a great place to do that.

Tallia Deljou | co-founder and president of Mavenly + Co., a career coaching organization for millennial women

Do you consider yourself more left- or right-brained (logic-minded or creative-minded)? How do you compensate for the other side?

I’d definitely consider myself more right-brained in terms of being more of a feeling and intuitive person (after all, I’m a psychologist). Kate (co-founder) definitely has a strong creative side to her, but she’s more of the left-brain to my right-brain! She’s great with words and thinking through things logically. Both are necessary for running a business and that’s why working as co-founders has been so important for us.

How do you “design” your life for productivity?

This is Mavenly’s bread and butter! We’re all about life and career design. It’s about knowing what’s important to you and knowing what your strengths are. If I’m going about each day without being intentional about what gives me energy, I’ll find myself running on empty pretty quickly. Ultimately as an entrepreneur, you have to know your values and how you work best so you can be intentional about the choices you make.

At the end of the day, it comes down to building habits into your life to keep you feeling grounded and productive, while also knowing when to step away to recharge.

How do you engineer creativity when you find yourself “stuck”?

I’m beginning to build a practice of meditation into my daily life which has proven to have effects on boosting creativity. I also try to take a mental day off in the middle of the week to reenergize (plus I see coaching clients on Saturdays, so it’s kind of like my mid-week Saturday). Kate and I are also being more intentional about taking time away from the day-to-day and going on ‘sabbatical’ to reevaluate and refocus for the months ahead.

Zach Pousman | founder of Helpfully, a prototyping and R&D studio

How do you “design” your life for productivity?

I am always trying to optimize my life and my work — making it better, more fun, and higher impact. Three things I’m finding helpful: 1. Do schedule time to be creative. If you don’t build it into your day-to-day, it’s hard to “fit in. 2. Don’t schedule meetings back to back. Build in 15 minutes of decompression time (note: don’t spend that time on email or Twitter. Instead, take a minute to process and cement what you’ve learned). 3. Keep exploring and find what works for you — it doesn’t matter if Tim Ferris does it!

How do you engineer creativity?

I get out and skateboard for 15 or 20 minutes. I try to do it daily. Letting your mind settle and go into ‘the zone’. When you’re busy, you need to take more short breaks, not fewer. I also engineer creativity by keeping a network of other entrepreneurs, designers, and generally cool people around and we pitch each other ideas frequently.

I do think of every business problem as finding the creative way to navigate the constraints, the blockers. When I’m blocked, I don’t try to approach the blocker head on and smash through it. Creativity means approaching the constraints obliquely, from a new angle. There’s always a path, even if it’s winding, around your obstacles.

What is your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?

Deciding what to work on! I am trying to do things with big impacts in 2017 but it’s sometimes hard to know where to apply my efforts. Should I write an article and help a bunch of people a little? Should I teach a workshop and help 10 people hands-on? Should I launch one of my side projects or volunteer? We can’t do everything in life, so we need to pick something and bring it into the world.

Diamonde Williamson | co-founder of Blossom, a digital television network for women of color

How does creativity play into the business portion of your job as an entrepreneur? 

Creativity is mandatory and I’m obsessed with innovation. So, I’m always reading FastCompany and 99u for ideas and then I apply. I also watch a lot a lot a lot of content, creative content, which is influential in our work.

How do you “design” your life for productivity? 

My calendar is everything. So I add in my mandatory tasks but I also add in time to meditate and do things that I love, helping me create balance.

How do you engineer creativity when you find yourself “stuck”? 

I watch YouTube videos and read a page or two in a book. In about 5 minutes, I’m unstuck.

What is your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur? 

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had as an entrepreneur is trying to help people see the vision. Some do and some people don’t. Of course, as entrepreneurs, we want everyone to get it! We want everyone to validate the idea. That’s been my challenge, but I have 100 percent confidence that things will work out as they should.

Feeling inspired? Want more? Check out the full feature on Creative Loafing

Images via Joeff Davis for Creative Loafing.

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