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5 Ways To Improve Your Entrepreneurial Creativity

For starters, don’t use your phone as an alarm clock.

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Entrepreneurial Creativity

Entrepreneurs have to be a bottomless pit of creativity, don’t they? Not only do we have to dream up big ideas, we also have to innovate new ways of executing them. And the sheer number of hours it takes to build a successful business can also lead to creative burnout, which is, of course, counter-intuitive.

“Creativity is a process that you can’t force,” says Molly Reynolds, cofounder and host of The Unicorn in the Room. “You have to know it’s a process and respect that process. But there are certainly some ways to set yourself up for success.”

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Reynolds was a professional musical theatre actor and continues to study dance and fine art in her spare time. Her love of the creative process spurred the creation of The Unicorn in the Room, an online resource for entrepreneurs.

Having interviewed business icons, such as Arianna Huffington and John Paul Dejoria, as well as top executives from GE, PwC, Forbes, Chobani and Heineken, Reynolds has identified these key ways to top business minds stay creative.

Related: 8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator

Here they are, in no particular order:

1Buy an alarm clock

alarm clock

Rest is a crucial part of the creative process and as Arianna Huffington will tell you, keeping your cell phone next to your bed while you sleep is a bad thing. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 44 percent of cell phone owners keep their favorite handheld next to them as they sleep to make sure they don’t miss an important call. But this is an extremely unhealthy habit to get into.

“So many people tell me they’ve got creative burnout, and almost all of them check their emails before they go to bed, first thing when they wake up, and yes, even in the middle of the night,” says Reynolds. “I used to do it too and the longer term effects are never good.”

Cellphones, TVs, tablets and other gadgets with LED screens all emit blue light that can inhibit our production of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. The blue light can also trick our bodies into thinking that it’s daylight and interfere with our sleep cycles. Worse than that? An overheating cellphone in your bed could even set your pillow on fire!

People will use the excuse that they need their phone as an alarm clock. Newsflash: you can buy an alarm clock that is not a smartphone. Avoid bouts of insomnia and house fires by keeping your cell phone out of your bedroom.

2Get a variety of perspectives

Do you know why The Challenger mission failed? Lack of diverse thinking. While many reports have placed the blame on technical fault and cold weather, others suggest that the disaster could have been avoided. The engineering team was used to receiving orders from the top down. Despite being aware of the potential dangers, they went ahead and cleared the spacecraft for launch. The management team at NASA simply would not allow room for different perspectives or opinions.

GE is a company that is more than 100 years old, and the executives there are still learning so that they can continue innovating. In fact, they hold leadership summits, where they invite in a wide variety of companies and share their best practices.

With a culture of constant learning, GE wanted to see what they could learn from Silicon Valley culture. So, they partnered with author of The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, to see how they could build innovation and fast work into their company core. Being open to change and new ideas is essential for companies to remain competitive and creative in shifting environments.

Related: Strategic Creativity Drives Growth

3Travel

There’s nothing like taking a timeout to get your creative juices flowing. Travel broadens the mind and exposes you to new and unfamiliar situations. You get to sample local cuisine, find out about different cultures and maybe even learn a language. All these experiences translate into enhanced problem solving skills and the ability to think creatively on your feet.

You might think that taking a sabbatical year to study Spanish in Barcelona or backpack around Southeast Asia is just an excuse for a time off. But there can be surprising benefits from taking yourself outside of your situation.

It might even become the catalyst for new success. Winston Chen decided to invent an app, just to have some fun while he was traveling. It turned out to be the start of his new career and company, voice-based mobile app, Voice Dream.

4Step away from the desk

Fitbit

“Getting a Fitbit actually made me a better problem solver,” Reynolds says.

“Before, I’d sit at my desk for hours trying to figure something out, but the thing buzzes me and makes me take a break to walk. Inevitably, as I’m walking, I figure out the problem more quickly.”

Do you know one of the least inspirational places for people to come up with creative solutions? The meeting room! That’s because we often need to get up and mobilize our bodies to get unblock our creativity. Steve Jobs was well known for his walking meetings, and Mark Zuckerberg reportedly likes to meet standing up as well.

There’s actually some science to back this up. Researchers at Stanford revealed that bursts of walking, whether indoors or outdoors, can help to boost our creative inspiration. So, when you come up against a case of writer’s block, or you simply feel like you’re staring into an abyss instead of your computer screen, get up and get moving!

5Draw your strategy

That’s right, draw your strategy. Don’t write it. This will cause your mind to think differently, which is a great way to shake up creativity. Expert on visual thinking, Dan Roam, worked as a consultant for some of the world’s largest companies, including Google, Sun Microsystems and eBay. He believes that one of the best ways to help people solve problems and contribute new ideas is by drawing them out.

In an interview with Business Insider, he said “taking advantage of our innate ability to see – both with our eyes and with our mind’s eye –  in order to discover ideas that are otherwise invisible, develop those ideas quickly and intuitively, and then share those ideas with other people in a way they simply ‘get.’”

Related: 10 Myths About Creativity You Need to Stop Believing Now

Get vulnerable

Lastly, says Reynolds, if you’re really committed to improving your creative mind in every one of these five steps, you need to allow yourself to get vulnerable. “Take a class that you would never think of taking, charcoal drawing, samurai sword fighting, tap dancing, whatever! You might feel ridiculous at first, and that’s a good thing. Having that vulnerability will remind you that you don’t have all of the answers and need to be open.”

According to David Brendel, of the Harvard Business Review, vulnerability can actually make you stronger. Things like apologising for errors, admitting when you’re wrong, or seeking help from others can all make you a better leader. When you allow yourself to be in a position where you’re learning something new, you leave yourself vulnerable to criticism and failure. Yet this learning process is all part of improving your creative mind and ongoing education.

So, watch your sleeping habits, and make sure you take breaks from your desk to leave room for inspiration to come through. Be open to travel, culture and new ideas, as well as using visual thinking. Do all that with a dose of vulnerability and an enquiring mind, and you’ll give yourself the innovation makeover you desperately seek.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Ben Simkin is the founder of BusinessNET, a leading Online Marketing Firm that to-date has increased clients' sales by over $1.45 billion. BusinessNET provide end-to-end marketing and sales services to established companies worldwide.

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Self Development

20 Quotes On Coping With Change From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

Change is up to you.

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elon-musk

Change is a hard concept to grasp – and can be even harder to cope with it. Whether you’re switching careers, leaving a company or ending a relationship, change comes in all sizes – big and small. And while some change can be exciting, other times it can be difficult.

Having your own approach to change, whether it’s in how you view it or how you handle it, is important in moving forward and being successful.

To learn how others do it, here are 20 quotes about change from today’s most successful leaders and entrepreneurs.

1. Elon Musk

“Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” – Elon Musk 

2. Oprah Winfrey

“You don’t have to hold yourself hostage to who you used to be.” – Oprah Winfrey

Related: 5 Mindset Changes You Must Make When Going From Employee To Entrepreneur

3. Barack Obama

barack-obama

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” – Barack Obama

4. Larry Page

“If you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things.” – Larry Page

5. Steve Jobs

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs 

6. Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

7. Steve Case

“Revolutions happen in evolutionary ways.” – Steve Case

Related: Osteostrong: An Exploding Global Movement Of Positive Change

8. Coco Chanel

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” – Coco Chanel

9. Warren Buffett

“The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.” – Warren Buffett

10. Steven Spielberg

steven-spielberg

“All of us, every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all our lives.” – Steven Spielberg

11. Mark Zuckerberg

“Entrepreneurship is about creating change, not just companies.” – Mark Zuckerberg

12. Richard Branson

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.” – Richard Branson

13. Joan Rivers

“Life is very tough. If you don’t laugh, it’s tough.” – Joan Rivers

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change

14. Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

“In order to build strength, you have to usually come from a lot of weakness.” – Lady Gaga

15. Thomas Jefferson

“Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” – Thomas Jefferson

16. Thomas Edison

“Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” – Thomas Edison

17. Sheryl Sandberg

“I learned that, in the face of a void or in the face of any challenge, you can choose joy and meaning.” – Sheryl Sandberg

18. Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins

Related: Managing Resistance To Change: An Essential Management And Leadership Skill

19. Martha Stewart

“The more you adapt, the more interesting you are.” – Martha Stewart

20. Albert Einstein

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

You’re Probably Biased At Work. Here’s How To Stop It

New research looked at hard data to find solutions.

Nina Zipkin

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biased-workplace-environment

Everyone suffers from bias, despite their best intentions. And that bias can manifest itself in ways we don’t always intend – including how opportunities are and aren’t doled out in the workplace.

Recently, a trio of researchers used sensors to see if they could distinguish any differences in day-to-day behavior between male and female employees. Their goal was to eliminate the type of bias that can occur in self-reported polls about behaviour.

To study this, the researchers looked at a company where women made up just under 40 percent of entry-level employees and 20 percent of employees at the second-highest level of seniority. For four months, 500 male and female employees at this company wore badges with sensors in them that recorded their movement, speech patterns and proximity to one another.

Related: 12 Reasons Entrepreneurs With Type-A Personalities Are Unstoppable

The researchers then monitored who the subjects communicated with and who led conversations. Though the data was anonymous, the research team collected information about a given person’s gender, role and how long they had worked for the company.

Although they approached the investigation with the hypotheses that perhaps the female employees had less access to mentors or did not advocate for themselves with management as much as their male counterparts, the researchers found that this was not the case.

“We found almost no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women. Women had the same number of contacts as men, they spent as much time with senior leadership and they allocated their time similarly to men in the same role,” the researchers wrote in a summary of their findings in Harvard Business Review.

“We found that men and women had indistinguishable work patterns in the amount of time they spent online, in concentrated work, and in face-to-face conversation. And in performance evaluations men and women received statistically identical scores. This held true for women at each level of seniority. Yet women weren’t advancing and men were.”

They concluded that differences in men and women’s behaviour aren’t what leads to gender inequality in the workplace – entrenched bias is the culprit.

So what can you do in your own company to make sure that bias doesn’t impact your hiring and promoting decisions? The researchers recommend instituting training programmes to reduce bias among management and people in the position to bring on new team members. You also might want to consider making a policy that, for all new open jobs, you interview and recruit people from a variety of backgrounds.

Related: Blend These 7 Personality Types When Building Your Executive Team

Also, look at the responsibilities your employees have outside the office. Think about ways to make it easier for both women and men to have flexible schedules, especially given that women often have social pressures to take on more family and household obligations.

Finally, determine where the pipeline to managerial and executive positions begins to trend more towards men. Collect data on exactly when these shifts happen in order to identify their specific causes (e.g. higher-ranking positions and their responsibilities require more late nights), then come up with pointed solutions (e.g. flexible morning schedules to accommodate childcare).

From there, measure the effectiveness any solution you implement. (“Since we implemented this policy, have those who have taken advantage of it advanced?”) This way, mitigating inequality is a science, not a guessing game.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com

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Self Development

Better Thinking For A Better World

How to think more critically and strategically in a world filled with complexity and rapid change.

Erik Kruger

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positive-thoughts

We take the act of thinking for granted. It is often seen as a skill one is born with and not one that should be cultivated over time.

As the world becomes more complex and more busy, strategic and critical thinking becomes more valuable. Strategic thinking points to the ability to decide how and when to deploy resources to achieve a certain end state.

Below are four areas of focus that will improve your strategic thinking:

1. Making Time For Reflection

Life is busy. Juggling work, friends and family, and the recurring notifications from your phone has become quite a feat. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to create space for reflection.

Related: One-Year Milestone: Smart Thinking That Will Ensure Your Start-Up Makes It Past The First Year

Time spent in solitude allows you to reflect and connect the dots. It temporarily takes you out of a world in which you must be reactive to survive and keep up.

My suggestion is to create a SOS (space of solitude) for at least 30 minutes every day. In this time, reflect on what has been working and what has not been working. Meditate on your goals for the future and plan for the actions that will help you get there.

2. Asking Better Questions

Many of us fall into the trap of sequential problem solving. This happens when leaders or organisations simply move from one challenge to the next and the only question they ask is “how do we overcome this challenge?”.

What about the questions like “how did we arrive here?” or “what assumptions are we making here?” or “what does better look like?”

I am not trying to give you a template of questions to ask. Merely prodding you to go beyond challenging the problem but to also challenge the thinking about the problem.

As we deepen our questions, we elevate our thinking.

Do not simply ask more questions. Ask better questions.

3. Seek More Input

Teams are great and often underutilized. How can you use your team’s knowledge, experience, and opinions in a more constructive way?

Well, how about allowing them sufficient time for reflection in solitude but also as a group. How about prompting them to look for the patterns in their environment? How about, as a leader, asking them questions that allow them to really stretch their cognitive abilities?

Even better, empower them to ask those questions themselves.

Related: Disruptive Thinking: A Winning Edge

4. Thinking rules

We often make the same mistakes over and over. Not because we have not learned the lesson but because the context changes. Or excitement gets the better of us.

During your reflection time (hopefully you have noticed the importance of this by now) you can reflect on your past decisions and figure out how you could have made better decision.

Once you have done this start jotting down a few personal rules that will help guide your decision making in the future. A personal guideline I established was that I will wait 24 hours before making any big purchase. Gadgets and golf gear often get the best of me. But simple rules like these help to guide my decision making and prevents me from making mistakes irrespective of context or emotional state.

What is next?

Starting today schedule a daily SOS. Yes, schedule it. Do not leave it to chance.

Think of it as training for your brain. A space where you get to think. Free of distraction and noise. You will be amazed at the clarity that comes from these sessions and how your productivity and effectiveness soars.

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