Break Open the Box to Becoming a Creative Resource

Image courtesy of Chris Dilts’ photostream.

Too often, businesses are placed in a box.  You become a vendor, someone your customer emails a new order to.  In simple terms, you become an order processor.  In today’s competitive market, it takes more than being an order taker to be successful.  You should be striving to be a valued resource.  But what does that mean exactly?

Becoming a resource starts with asking yourself the right questions.  For example, if your customer places an order for hats, you should ask yourself: “Which need would this hat satisfy for my customer”?  Maybe the hat will serve as part of a uniform.  If so, you should find out which remaining pieces you can fulfill.  Ask yourself what components naturally fit the product you are providing to turn your product into a program.  Solve the problems your customer isn’t necessarily aware of, and streamline their ordering needs so they can focus on the other elements of their business plan.  Busy business owners would rather have a few trusted resources to keep their business moving than several that can only supply a few components. 

In order for your customer to see you as a resource to their business, you need to be able to provide two things: 1. an ability to streamline their business to make their daily operations easier 2. a creative approach that solves their problems in an exciting and unexpected way.

Considering yourself as a creative individual may not come that easy to everyone.  Most people become intimated by the idea of having to be creative, assuming that only artists, writers, and people that play out in left field are the creative ones.  But that isn’t necessarily true.  We are all creative in our own respect; we just need to get out of our own way.  Riley Gibson, CEO of Napkin Labs, believes that the key to learning how to be creative is to force yourself out of your comfort zone.  “With routine, people tend to get stuck in patterned forms of thought. By forcing our minds out of our comfort zones, we can become a part of a more intellectually diverse crowd that helps us continue to learn and challenge our own assumptions.”

Michael Michalko, author of “Cracking Creativity”, denotes five ways to strengthen your ability to think creatively:

1.    Defer judgment when looking for ideas
2.    Generate as many ideas as possible
3.    List ideas as they occur and keep a written record
4.    Constantly elaborate or improve on ideas
5.    Allow your subconscious to generate ideas by incubating their subject

Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone.  Ask more questions before simply entering an order.  Create more creative approaches to solving your customer needs.  The more you try to become a creative resource, the easier it will become.

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