Vivian Geffen: Creativity, the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit for Survival
Creativity is the portal to possibility. I believe it is at the heart of becoming an effective entrepreneur and a generally happy person. Without the ability to pose the question,what is possible and to believe that there is something to move towards, we get stuck in a rut or look backwards trying to relive what was. In life and in business, there are always setbacks. Situations do not go as we anticipate, and the rug can get pulled out from under us. If we don’t have a sense of how to navigate change, where to start, and what kinds of questions to ask, then life and business can be pretty scary. However, when you develop a creative mindset and understand that creativity means more than expressing some form of artistry, you can become aware of always being in process. This allows you to take setbacks and readjustments as an opportunity to find a new path that works.
Have you ever found yourself in a time when the need for change became unavoidable, possibly from situations beyond your control, or just the natural outgrowing of something that was once useful but now just feels safe and unfulfilling? I reached that crossroad 20 years into my career as the owner of a Massage Therapy agency. I had an internal sense that I wanted and needed a different expression for myself in business, and the idea of creativity being an important part of it kept recurring, but I had no picture of what that could mean. I had drive and passion and need, but no clear vision or idea of what new service I could be providing. It was a very painful, stuck time. I felt lost, and I didn’t know what to do next. All I had was a sense of a different destiny calling me. I sat in this discomfort and uncertainty for a while until I had a thought which yielded a question whose answer became the beginning of my journey into a new career based on a new understanding of creativity and how I can use it in my work with others.
If we met and I said to you “I work with people to understand and improve their creativity.” What would pop into your mind? Would you think of art or music or writing? If so, that is quite normal. Creativity and the Arts have been conflated. People tend to automatically think of the arts as creative and creativity as the arts. However, there is another way to understand creativity, which is a thinking process. Creativity can be seen as a problem-solving tool that can be learned, studied and improved. That was the big a-ha! I learned in my master’s degree program because returning to school ended up being the first step in my route to my career transformation.
That recognition and insight was the catalyst I needed. Suddenly it made sense; I could infuse creativity into my work without becoming an artist. Light bulbs went off all over! Hallelujah, I knew what I would do next! Armed with my skills and knowledge, I created workshops and classes to guide people in how to apply the creative thinking methodology to their own lives and transformations. It was going to be amazing. I led the workshops and had great results, but the classes did not thrive. I was shocked and disappointed. I could not understand why everybody didn’t want this skill until a wise friend asked me, “Did anybody ask for these classes?”
Sheepishly, I had to admit that they had not. Business lesson number one, right? Test your concept. This hurt; however, from the creativity perspective, it was an invitation to practice the skills I was teaching and an opportunity to iterate, or go back to the drawing board, as they say. In business, the evidence that a complete creative thinking cycle has taken place is the tangible existence of a unique product or service.However, that does not generally mean you’re done. The process of being creative is an ongoing cycle. There is room for improvement and tweaking once you get the initial product up and running and on occasion it is necessary to start all over again and that is what I had to do.
Going back to the beginning meant asking clarifying questions and refining the vision. I had to consider what other ways could my skills be used? What needs could I identify and how might the two intersect? With an open mind, I began to listen. One thing I noticed was women experiencing frustration with ineffective speaking skills. I saw them at my networking meetings not receiving responses to their offers and heard them speak about feeling uncomfortable making offers at all. Those observations gave me a clue to where I could be of service. It occurred to me that I could combined my years of improvisation training with my ear for language and ability to ask unique insight-producing questions into a use methodology that could boosts speaker confidence and improve sales.
I began to offer coaching and classes to optimize stage presence and become a more effective speaker. This offer got traction. I love it so much and would not have cast myself in this light from the outset, but that is what engaging in creativity offers. If you are willing to risk setting out with a vision, developing an idea, putting it out there and receiving feedback, you will find yourself in a creative process. The more we can trust the process, use feedback as information, and maintain an ability to remain curious, then we can engage our minds to make new connections and see things differently. The outcome is an increased chance for experiencing continued success and a surprising and ever-evolving life.