Top of Mind: Get Your Creative On

Trying to spark creativity is a little like trying to meet your future partner: It tends to happen when you’re not looking for it. At MakeWorks we say, “Be unintentional.” Rather than trying to solve your own problem directly, help others with theirs. We do weekly demos, and all of our startups share their wins and losses for the week. This simple exercise takes people out of their comfort zones and often inspires new ideas and serendipitous collaborations.

—Mike Stern, founder, MakeWorks co-working space, Toronto

Sometimes the simplest endeavors are best for seeking constructive innovation and creativity. What works best for me is walking—specifically walking away from the laptop for six miles a day. Remember that ideas don’t exist as solitary figments. They feed off solace and stimuli—being lost in thought and accidental discoveries after getting lost in New York, even though I’ve lived here 20 years. Walking lets me be in my mind and be in the world, so I can have my private reflections, random experiences and daily discoveries.

—Francesco Marciuliano, author, cartoonist, TV writer

To get more innovation from your team, stop evaluating ideas based on your opinion. Instead, determine winning ideas the same way the NCAA does for college basketball: by running a tournament. The manager sets the rules, makes a rough cut at which ideas will compete, and gives every idea identical funding for small tests in similar markets. Then let those markets determine the winners. This way, your team will stop thinking about company politics and instead focus on what might work in the marketplace.

—Wade Lagrone, co-founder and CEO, Rabbl

I admire those with entrepreneurial spirit because they’re open to all ways of realizing their dreams. Sheer chutzpah is part of it, but being creative is an absolute must, too. The opportunities are endless, but information overload can be costly for those with bigger ideas than budgets. I always advise small businesses to invest in personal branding by helping others. This can take as little as 20 minutes a day—participating in industry discussions on LinkedIn, thoughtfully commenting on others posts or sharing content on their company pages. A little goes a long way when raising your profile, but the key is consistency.

—Penry Price, vice president of global sales, marketing solutions at LinkedIn

Today it’s more important than ever to live, eat and breathe creatively. You should foster an environment where it’s OK to pitch anything and lead by example. Inspiration can come from anywhere or anyone. Although its important to recognize mistakes and learn from them, don’t forget to celebrate the wins.

—Jeff Rubin, founder and CEO, It’s Sugar

I believe the best way to foster creativity is to bring together a team that cares deeply about the project. We embrace diverse backgrounds, which allows creative input with ideas from varying perspectives added to a collective and innovative solution. We do that with our owners, advisers, employees, consultants, friends and family, and then test all of our ideas and concepts on outsiders.

—Steven Miller, CEO, Vaspen

Valencell inspires creativity by fostering an environment of shamelessness. We laugh with each other (but not at each other) when someone busts up with a bad idea because, in the worst case, at the very least it’s funnyand sometimes its downright hysterical. I tell my employees, “The nextbest thing to a good idea is an entertaining bad one.” And sometimes what seems (at least on impulse) like a bad idea actually turns into something ingenious—and possibly even revolutionary—by forcing my team to think way outside the box.

—Steven LeBoeuf, Ph.D., president of Valencell Inc.

I rely on running as my catalyst for creativity. I have learned to share my post-run inspirations by first revealing the concept, which creates curiosity, and then scheduling additional review. [This] structure is necessary in order to promote and determine the idea’s merits. Innovation is a series of successes and failures, and our ability to navigate these in an efficient manner within a team is essential to sustained success.

—Kris Snyder, founder and CEO, Vox Mobile

Everyone at StyleSeat is encouraged to experiment with their individual hair styles. Visiting salons, talking to stylists and being the clients that we want to serve creates many new ideas for our business. In addition, we have a lot of purple, pink and blue hair in our office.

—Melody McCloskey, co-founder and CEO, StyleSeat

Start crafting innovative ideas with John C. Maxwell’s 7 tips on how to become an idea catalyst. 


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