Using creativity in your business to build trust with your clients

Why creativity?

Creativity is the ability to solve problems in new innovative ways.

The world is changing fast. Since new technologies and digital world evolved, some jobs started to disappear. I always used to say that I am not worried about my future because I am not afraid about work. I can always find a job as a Tesco cashier or a cleaner.

But that is not the case anymore. I started to see that even in supermarkets human factor is replaced with the technology. Self service instead of a cashier and automated cleaning services or vacuum robots.

It made me think that in order to create a good future for my children, I need to change the way I think. I need to learn those new technologies so that I am not left behind. But isn’t everything going to be replaced in the future?

Why should I improve my skills in accounting or geography if Google has the answer to everything? Lexicon knowledge is amazing but I believe that in our new world, only the bare minimum will be necessary.

Even as a Graphic Designer I see a huge trend in businesses doing graphic design on their own with simple website builders like Wix or creating logos in Canva. Although I believe that it is not a good choice, this is not the article to talk about that.

I realized that the world doesn’t need more new graphic designers with good technical skills. It can be easily replaced. Everyone can do it. What the world need is more design thinkers. People who can use their creative thinking to solve problems.

Creativity, design or design thinking process is already present in all industries from advertising agencies to hospitals.

An example from an article by Tim Brown: When Everyone Is Doing Design Thinking, Is It Still a Competitive Advantage? :

“Adapting from William Gibson, the future of design thinking is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. Some complex and large-scale systems are adopting the practice in holistic ways. Innova School System, for example, with 23 schools thus far, is applying design thinking across its platform, from how the classrooms are built to the curriculum. Likewise, the UK’s Design Policy Unit has shown how taking an agile, iterative approach across a broad range of government services can make the whole system feel more open, transparent, and easy to participate in.”

It was written in 2015! Imagine how many things already went forward today.

 

Everyone can be creative

I get asked very often how I became so creative. Being creative is not about having the skill to draw or use a computer. Everyone can learn that. It is about the ability to solve problems.

I did not know how to draw anything but I really wanted to. I saw it as an interesting problem that I need to solve. So I decided to make one illustration every day by tracing my photographs until I gained the skill to draw and eventually even gained clients looking for illustration work.

For me, creativity is about learning that problems are not negative. Problems are good challenges for our brain and it is our decision to solve them in new, innovative ways.

We are all born creative. Observing my own children I am amazed to see that they too use creative problem solving on every occasion. When put with an opportunity to smash an ant, I asked my son:

“It must be very tempting to see what will happen when you smash this ant. But we will have a problem, it will die. What can we do to solve this problem?”

I suggested that we can take a blueberry to see what would happen if we smash it and Igor loved it. Then I asked him what else we could do with the ant. He pointed at one ant that was carrying a bread crumb. We were both excited and decided to follow them and to see where she will take it. My little problem solver was just born.

This small experiment showed me that our creativity is often killed when we are still children. As parents, we tend to say no to everything instead of teaching children solving problems. It is easier for me than finding creative solutions. But I try to choose excitement over comfort while playing with my kids.

Schools are limiting us by hours of monologue in a boring classroom instead of teaching us problem-solving and creativity. The world doesn’t need another follower. We need more creative leaders. It should start with education for children and adults. We all have the ability to be creative problem solvers and change the world.

 

What is design thinking process

I have recently written an article on how the behind the scenes of the design process works. I decided to dive more deeply into the process so that you can apply it to your own business. No matter if you are just starting or already have an existing business.

In 1969 Nobel Prize laureate Herbert Simon wrote the first model of design thinking in his book “The sciences of the Artificial”. It consisted of seven stages: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn. Today, there are many similar models build based on the specific needs of the industry.

I would like to share with you the five-stage model developed by Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Standford as this is the closes process that helped me develop the problem-solving skills and evolved into my own processes.

 

Design thinking methodology

Design thinking methodology motivates us to always innovate better solutions to problems. It is composed of five stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. It helps in understanding complex problems by understanding human needs.

BUT. We should not think about it as a recipe for everything. It is just a backbone that needs to be studied, practiced and always evolving. “Let’s stop talking about THE design process” article gives more insight on this. Stanford University has a great program that helps people develop their creative abilities.

This process is not linear, each stage can overlap and occur repeatedly. This process is just a seed that I would like to plant for you but this formula should evolve with your own thinking and your own skills developing during this process.

In my own work, I have a different process but originally it started from these basic rules.

 

Design thinking stages

Empathise

We need to become friends with our problem. We will research with experts on the users and try to understand them. It is important to separate yourself fully from this process. In order to understand what others need or how they behave we should not think of our own practices or preferences.

As creative thinkers, we need to learn to prioritize and judge the data that we study. What is relevant, and will add valuable insights? We need to learn the ability to make sense of all the information. It can be learned by practice. Once we can sort that relevant information, we need to start to connect it and bridge the gaps until we can see patterns and correlation. We need to find an opportunity.

This is a very important stage because if you can understand what your clients need, then you will be able to offer an honest, working solution.

Instead of thinking about how to increase your revenue on selling shoes the research should be focused on what types of shoes does your client needs. What are his problems and fears?

Following this example, we would research on demographics of the buyers and focus on the ideal client.

In order to understand how our buyer feels we give him a name, age, and other characteristics. We need to understand what John likes and what are his biggest problems.

Investing time and resources could be more valuable than researching on best marketing practices. Through interviews and testing, we could find out that John usually wears big shoe sizes but our store is always out of stock! At this stages sometimes the problem solves itself.

Once we can understand who John is, what he likes and how he behaves we can move forward to defining the problem.

 

Define the Problem

Organizing our research and testing from the empathize phase will bring us closer to finding the problem. For brands, it could be building awareness, trust or following. In households, it could be behavioral issues with toddlers or problems with time management. On a larger scale, hospitals can find problems in their work systems.

In our example with a shoe store, once we get to know John better, we start to understand that he is simply not able to get the shoes in his size in the store nearby. We have defined his problem.

We can then deep dive on more research if it is necessary. The research is ongoing and empathizing with John is the main priority to finding solutions.

 

Ideate

After defining our problem we need to think of ways to solve it. For John, it seems easy to stock the shop with more shoes in his size. But the problem might be more complex. Maybe we need to design a new shoe style that fits John?

While looking for new solutions we will always get back to research on new tools and methodologies that suit best our case.

We can use brainstorming, experimenting, creating different case scenarios as some of the techniques to find ideas. There is no set process here or any rules.

Some people might feel more comfortable with drawing and some people might prefer to go for a walk in the shoes for a few hours to feel more like John while recording the audio. The medium and the way you transfer the ideas are your own methodology. You need to find your own process that challenges your mind for creative solutions.

However, we should find a way to track our process. It is good to record and organize it so that we are always able to present the path to our solutions. We need to take the thoughts out of our heads and put them out somewhere, where it can be analyzed.

It is important to collaborate with other people to get a different point of views and to always evolve in the way we search for ideas. Observing and learning from others can bring unexpected results.

We need to start being comfortable with now knowing the solution. It will free our mind to explore and experiment with the innovative ideas that could be easily wrong. It is ok if our idea fails. If we are afraid of failure, we cannot be creative because we will never try to take risks. We must take risks to test new possibilities. That is what makes us creative.

The next step of prototyping will minimise those risks and help us test before implementing huge changes that could impact other people.

 

Prototype

Before we start implementing our solutions, we should be able to build small, inexpensive prototypes. We could try, for example, to present our solution to the other team and create questionnaires that will summon the results.

For the website, we could build two variations of just a single page design and test it within the team.

When starting a new ice cream shop, we could set a home tasting for friends and family and ask for feedback about the taste.

In our shoe shop example, we could send John, one client a 3D rendering of the new shoe model or send him a newsletter that his sizes are now available in the store and see if he reacts.

As creative people, we need to learn the ability to present our ideas in a simple form that speaks to the desired audience.

Testing within the safe zone allows us to prevent big change launches and making it very costly. It also allows us to fail. We have to fail sometimes in order to learn and move forward.

 

Test

When we reach this stage, we could start implementing our solutions gently, partially and request feedback before the full change or business launch.

For the shoe shop, we might want to test the new solution to one of our stores instead of stocking all the shops with new sizes.

We are confident at this stage to try and we are proud to present it to our clients. Again, we are not afraid to fail. We are proving to our clients our empathy towards them. We show them that we are trying to find new ways to build good value. There is no loosing at this stage.

As a mother, I see on my children that by just trying to give them attention and treating them like adult creative thinkers I gained their trust. I am not always right and my solutions are not always good but I already gained so much! Raising creative children is much more fun than my previous traditional parenting methods.

If our problem needs more solutions we get back to any previous phases and we allow it to be continuous growth.

Once we are confident that our solution works, we can implement it to the system. With practice, we will learn the best techniques and medium for each solution.

Let the magic happen.

Then start to empathise again and never stop being creative.

 

Conclusion

Creativity can be used to solve small and big problems from raising your children or organizing your house to improving your business relationships with clients or making an impact in our ecosystem.

It is not always easy to choose creativity and to learn the ability to solve problems in an innovative way. We are taught from school to be the followers, not the innovators.

But we need to change our way of thinking to be ready for the future world.

Being creative in our business motivates us to empathize with our clients and build something that has real value. Showing that you care for them, will build trust and long-lasting relationship.

Even if you fail to solve your clients’ problems, you win because you truly care to create something meaningful. John will know it and you know it too.

Going back to your creative thinking you will find solutions that help delight your clients.

 

Additional readings

Design thinking origin story plus some of the people who made it all happen.

Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design Synthesis

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