July 2001
Volume 43 Number 7
 

Bottom Line: Creativity -- Let the Juices Flow in the Workplace
by William Blades   Pages: 

Many people refuse to use creativity. Logically, they talk themselves out of doing new things. Their left brain interferes with the right. It’s like stars during the day. They're out there, but the sun interferes -- outshines them.

Creativity is taking a generic offering and putting a twist on it to differentiate your offer. Zany is going much further "out there" to dramatically augment your offer. Being creative, or even zany, is a challenge because only one in 100 people is very creative. If you aren't very creative, but you work at it, then that makes two out of 100.

How to work creatively

Mornings are the best time to be creative. You're usually fresher. By day's end, you may have experienced rejection, stress, fatigue and some other surprises that cause chaos. Get up 15 to 30 minutes earlier than normal to think about a particular challenge. Pour your coffee and get away from all distractions so there isn’t anything interfering with your thought process. You'll not always get the idea that morning, but the challenge has been placed into your subconscious. It may come out that morning, later in the day or the next day, but it will happen. One tidbit to think about tomorrow morning…what do chickens think we taste like? Hmmm, that wasn't in the hit movie "Chicken Run."

A tip -- keep a pen that lights up next to your bed. Why? Some of your best (and zany) ideas come when the brain is at ease. That’s why you get those good ideas when you're just drifting off to sleep or when you first wake up. When you rest your body, your brain is also resting and recharging; but during the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage, your brain is still processing daytime information. Your brain is like a computer. Put information in, let it process a while and retrieve it. Don’t think, "I'll remember it when I wake up." You usually won't. Pick up the pen and write it down before you forget.

The adage "You are today what you will be in five years depends on two critical things -- the people you meet and the books you read," is true. Regarding people, invest time with people that are more creative than you. If you aren't very creative, you have a weakness to work on -- so be wise and seek help. Some co-workers look at creative sales and management types as being "out there." Yes, and you must suffer the man-child cheerfully. They'll keep your organization out of a box -- and improve your bottom line. "That will not work here" is not in their vocabulary. The book, magazine and newspaper you don't read may hurt you. Mark Twain said, "The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read." Read everything you can get your hands on.

Take a walk. Exercising also increases the blood flow to the brain. Have you ever gone walking or running and come up with a great idea? Exercise induces endorphins, which induce thought-provoking ideas. That’s why I always have a pen and paper when I walk the dog.

Ideas to try

Read your newspaper with a goal of searching for creative ideas. I read in the Phoenix newspaper of a salesperson who learned that his client’s wife had given birth so he delivered a gift -- for the 2-year old! Cool. I learned something new. I would have delivered a gift, but for the wrong kid.

Another thing I read told about a minor league baseball team that had "Laundry Night." All fans had to do was buy a game ticket and drop their load of laundry off at the turnstiles. On the way out, they picked up their laundry -- washed, dried and folded. It was a big success especially with the college kids. Providing soap suds created more beer suds sold at the concession stands. It’s called "give to get."

Arrange for a mobile car-washing company to arrive in your client’s parking lot and wash every contact’s vehicle. Friday is the best day because most people like a clean vehicle on the weekend. Earn the nickname "Mr. Clean" for taking someone’s business away in a sanitary manner.

Get a food product labeled with your name on it. Salsa is the top-selling condiment (surpassing ketchup). Seek out a small, private labeler of salsa and get a label reading "Sally’s Gourmet Salsa." Your ingredient statement would go on one end of the label and your mission statement on the other. Your photo should go in the middle. If you are willing to be zany, your photo can be a spoof of sorts, which results in "Sally’s Sinful Salsa." This has worked out well in the water treatment industry by using private-label bottled water in place of salsa. In such cases you may change the label to read "Pauline's Pure as the Driven Snow."

When money matters

Perhaps these ideas are too expensive? Arrange for a "shoe shiner" to set up a workstation at your client’s office. Worried about being called a cobbler? I wouldn’t. Beats being called a peddler any day. Why do you see shoeshine stands at airports and hotels? Because that’s where the busy people are. Your competition will look on you as a heel because you took the shine off them.

Go to church. Why? It’s not only a peaceful environment, but even church bulletins contain interesting comments as in any publication. An example: "What is hell? Come early to hear our choir practice." Watch for anything humorous and mail it to someone who appreciates humor. Think of clients at all times and not just when it’s time to sell something. Church is an excellent place to meet future prospects to follow up with later.

Pick a large, prospective client that you've been calling without success, and send a nice gift for her office. Your note might read, "Even though I haven’t met your expectations yet, I wanted to express my appreciation for your time and consideration this past year." Or, "For putting up with me this past year." A gift in appreciation for them rejecting you makes no logical sense. Or does it? Depends on the potential reward.

Better to give than receive

Stop giving Christmas gifts like everyone else does. Instead, give a gift on the anniversary date of when you first landed a client. I suggest you stop the monotonous habit of even signing a batch of Christmas cards. Most clients don’t remember from whom they did -- and didn’t -- receive holiday cards. The cards get taped around a door until they come down in January. Instead, send a card today and monopolize the person's desk for a while.

CEOs and managers, likewise, shouldn’t wait until year-end for giving gifts and bonus checks. You should do special things for your employees all year. Treat your great ones as if they were clients helping your sales and profits -- because they are!

Even finance personnel can be more creative in their business outlook. Have one, and only one, join you at your next convention and have her join you for breakfast meetings, stand all day at the booth and dine and entertain clients with you. Give her a challenge of doing something creative at the convention.

The next time they receive an expense report for something creative, they may understand and appreciate your efforts. Remember, I said "may."

Pamper yourself

Massages are becoming more of a need than a want in this stressful world. I've spoken at quite a few conventions recently where exhibitors offered 15-minute chair massages. The line looked like opening night for a blockbuster movie.

Several 15-minute massage session will cost you around $150. Really cheap compared to hosting eight people for dinner or golf. Why not do it quarterly for those special clients? After a massage, most people are very relaxed and groggy. A great time to ask for an order! "Uh, yeah. OK, whatever," would be a likely response.

A note to CEOs and managers: Why not provide this valuable service to your people in-house? Remember, a great leader is a great servant who takes care of his people.

Messages from oxymorons

* "Working vacation" -- Don’t work on vacation time. Relax and let your brain recharge, but keep a pen and notepad nearby at the pool, ocean, lake or stream to jot down ideas.

* "Definite maybe" -- Creativity definitely wins every day over maybe doing something a little differently later when it's more convenient.

* "New classic" -- Be new in your offerings. Almost all of the classical methods of selling and leading are outdated and routine.

* "Terribly pleased" -- Being creative pleases almost everyone. Being the same as everyone else is boring… and a terrible waste of untapped talents. Be pleasing by thinking, "How am I going to make a difference in my client’s business and life today?"

* "Butt head" -- Don’t just sit there doing the same thing. Use your head. You could accomplish your profession with one arm. Even one leg. People do it all the time. You do, however, need to max out your No. 1 attribute -- your brain. Use it or lose it.

Knowledge is what you learn after you know it all. Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison both gave a similar statement, which said we utilize less than 1 percent of our potential. I believe them and I hope you do, too.

If you aren't overly creative, take little steps to be so. When you see that one idea works, you'll try another… and another. Then you can go for the whole enchilada because you'll be energized by the victories creativity brings you.

I loved John Kennedy’s response when he was asked why Americans were spending so much on NASA’s rocket programs, which were failing miserably at the time. He replied, "We choose to go to the moon; not because it's easy, but because it's hard." Developing creativity may seem hard in the beginning, but almost everyone has the capability to do it.

When the Soviet Union initially beat us to outer space, Kennedy boldly said, "We will land a man on the moon and bring him back successfully." He made the commitment first and then put the creative people to work.

Conclusion

Make the commitment and stick to it, but be ready to be called "zany" and "out there." A simple commitment to make is -- "I will do a minimum of one creative idea weekly." Beats being called "routine" or "mundane" any day. And it's profitable in the long run.

About the author

William "Bill" Blades, CMC, CPS, is a professional speaker and consultant specializing in sales and leadership issues. He is based in Scottsdale, Ariz. He can be reached at (480) 563-5355, (480) 563-0515 (fax), email: bill@williamblades.com or website: www.williamblades.com