Company president, Heidi Reimer-Epp talks about creative thinking – what it means to her & how to nurture it within your business.
I’ve been asked what it’s like to run a creative business. Botanical PaperWorks is oozing with creativity as our team brings their very best to our original designs of promotional products, wedding invitations and stationery. And as I think about creativity, could it be that some businesses are creative and others aren’t? Is creativity something that only a special few have been blessed with?
It’s true that a company like Botanical PaperWorks has a very heavy emphasis on creativity. We’re designing products, choosing color palettes and creating new products every single day. But I don’t think you have to be a design-oriented company like ours to be creative.
Consider this – what if the business goals included developing, nurturing and accessing the creativity of every person in the company? That’s a creative business.
Here’s how I define business creativity when it comes to the workplace: Encouraging every employee to be open to new opportunities and new ideas in all areas of product and process design. This is something that everyone can participate in, from shop floor to office team member.
“The ability to manage, organize, cultivate and nurture creative thinking is directly linked to growth and achievement”.
The quote comes from The Ernst & Young 2010 Connecting Innovation to Profit study that found that creativity is necessary for a company’s success. This suggests to me that any business can harness creativity if they choose to make it a corporate priority. Because it’s THAT important.
I’m thinking about the company that recently did the roof on my house. When you contact them for a quote, they send you addresses of other houses in your area that they’ve roofed. When they quote the different shingle options, they give visual examples of what those singles will look like. This is creative thinking for their industry.
As business leaders, if we’re not creating, we’re stagnating. There is no industry that isn’t caught up in the change and uncertainty that comes from rapidly evolving technology and consumer behavior.
Consider that, according to a recent report from The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Toronto's Ryerson University, more than 40 per cent of the Canadian workforce is at high risk of being replaced by technology and computers in the next two decades. Automation has previously been restricted to routine, manual tasks, but breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and advanced robotics now means that automation is moving into "cognitive, non-routine tasks and occupations, such as driving and conducting job interviews."
This pressure to evolve and stay relevant in the marketplace suggests that creativity is a good strategy. Probably better than competing on having the lowest price.
So if you want to “manage, organize, cultivate and nurture creative thinking” but don’t know where to start, here are a few suggestions based on what has worked for us at Botanical PaperWorks:
1) Sprinkle the day with fun
No one can think creatively if their workday is all stress and seriousness. We bring in fun in little ways – I play a few rounds of One-Minute Cranium with my sales manager at lunch; the director of operations occasionally surprises me at our weekly meetings with a favorite Starbucks drink; we wear Crowns of Creativity when dreaming up our new product line; the Assembly team shares some snacks during the afternoon.
2) Start your Lean Journey
There’s no program like Lean to help you get creative with your processes. The Lean methodology takes continuous improvement and process innovation out of the hands of top leaders and puts it into those of every member of the organization. Said one team member at my company who had previously worked in the very rigid environment of banking: “I love how my suggestions actually get implemented”. She couldn’t believe that she had a voice and her input was taken seriously.
We encourage our team members to read broadly. Blogs, books, magazines, webinars, pop-culture. From this non-work-specific content, we get ideas for new innovations and we stay in-step with changing culture. Plus it’s fun.
4) Just do it
Sorry to borrow this from Nike but a business mentor hammered this point into my head early on. With a creative business, it’s easy to get hung up with analysis paralysis. Sometimes the best thing is just to launch, just go for it, and you’ll figure out the final details as you go. Better to have a product line launched at 80% than nothing launched, holding out for 100%.
One thing, though - creativity isn’t easy. Said Erich Fromm, "Conditions for creativity are to be puzzled; to concentrate; to accept conflict and tension; to be born everyday; to feel a sense of self." It’s easier to choose to be boring, average, predictable. But at what cost? A grave cost to one’s own enjoyment of work and to the future of the company. Don’t wait. Start your creative journey today.
What to learn a bit more about Botanical PaperWorks? These articles may interest you:
Daring To Dream: Heidi Reimer-Epp's Journey Starting A Business + Helpful Tips
Spirit of Winnipeg Awards: A Look At The Evening + Q&A With Our Company President
Botanical PaperWorks Wins TWO Green Awards
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