Fostering the Spirit of Entrepreneurship: Creativity and Innovation

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Dr Wilfred Isak April

THIS week I am going to talk about creativity and innovation. Creativity is not just about inspiration, it is a skill you can learn, practise and perfect. Before we dwell deeper into today’s discussion I really want you to think about the following slogans: “You are not alone – until you need a loan,” or “Customer service is our number one priority – please leave a message after the beep.”

It sounds crazy, but these slogans are really creative. Today is about sharing and exploring some of the tools of creativity.

Let me formally begin with what I think is a perfect example of what is creativity in action. This weekend I had the opportunity to read a book titled “A Great Game of Business”. I will briefly share a story I read in this book. There were strikes between two locations at a major distribution plant. Jack has to transport steel between these locations, but how best can he do that without being shot.

Someone said: they could transport the steel with school busses.  Another guy said it depends on who is driving the busses; they will not shoot at nuns driving school busses. That is exactly what Jack did, he dressed workers as nuns, and loaded school busses with steel bars. Here is the sense that I like about this story. They were always doing crazy things to keep the company going, and nothing stopped them. 

We can come up with the most outrageous ideas that could make businesses work. These are the unique crazy ideas entrepreneurs or organizations need more than ever if we are going to both survive and thrive. After all these right-sizing, restructuring and re-engineering we want to make our businesses fit. But fit for what?  Who is going to provide the new products and services for these lean and fit structures? All these changes really kill the creativity spirit of businesses when we are needed to take bold steps. 

It was earlier assumed, in the book “Futurist”, that by the year 2000 we would only work 30 hours per week with more leisure time.  As it is evident today half of the people work 60 hours a week and the other half are unemployed. Who is going to survive in today’s global competitive market? It is not the engineer, but the “creative engineer”; it’s not the marketing manager, but the “creative marketing manager” who is able to find those new markets. It is not even the receptionist, but the “creative disc jockey receptionist” who entertains you while you are on hold. I don’t think it is the accountant, but the creative accountant. 

Creativity is needed everywhere in the business, from the research and development department to simply re-organising files. Our only advantage over technology at least for a while, is our ability to reason, reflect and think divergently. It is about using our brains and thinking creatively.

•Dr Wilfred Isak April is a Unam graduate and holds a PhD  Entrepreneurship (New Zealand).  He lectures in Leadership, Organizational Behaviour and Entrepreneurship at the University of Namibia.