How Creativity Gives Entrepreneurs an Edge

Samurai sword blade

Photo by Pablo Contreras.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

Rita Mae Brown

We cannot continue to do the same thing every day and hope to remain competitive. In business as well as in life, change is not a choice, it’s a must. The options are very clear: innovate or die!

If there’s one aspect of business that can help you keep up with change as an entrepreneur, it is creativity.

Being in business is all about meeting the needs and solving the problems of a particular set of people. These people are known as your customers.

They have needs that arise as a result of certain problems they have, and are in search of products/services that will solve their problems. These needs are always changing with time.

Success goes to the entrepreneurs who not only keep up with these changes, but also create products/services that anticipate evolving needs and desires.

An entrepreneur is only able to achieve this through an unwavering dedication to creativity.

What Does It Mean to Create?

To create means to come up with something new [unique] which also has the capacity to positively affect lives [useful].

Creativity is the essence of entrepreneurship. Products/services don’t fall from the sky like manna, they are created. And the one person that must bear the burden to create is none other than you, the entrepreneur.

As Michael E. Gerber, rightly puts it:

The entrepreneur takes shape through the act of invention. If there is no invention there is no entrepreneur. If there is no entrepreneur there is no invention. The two are inextricably bound. The substance of the entrepreneur, her worth as an entrepreneur, is determined by the substance of her invention.

(E-Myth Mastery)

So, your task as an entrepreneur is to engage in a never-ending process of creation by forming a creative habit. It is only through the habit of creating that the entrepreneur masters the art of creation.

Creation (making new and better things) must never be confused for execution (getting things done). Your work as an entrepreneur is not about execution but about creation; seeking to do what never existed before and not just seeking to get things done.

How Do You Create?

Practice creation. Form the habit of coming up with something out of nothing. Become like a child again: play!

You find the power to create something through the practice of that thing.

You create a book by forming the habit of reading a book and practicing writing.

You create music by forming the habit of listening to music and practicing playing music.

The power to create doesn’t come from practice, it comes from you.

Then why practice?

Practice is your signal to the universe that you’re ready to create.

Practice says to the universe: “I’m prepared; make me an instrument for creation!”

How do you know the universe will answer?

Form the habit and commit to the practice first, keep doing it over and over, only then will you know.

You will know only when you’re not afraid to begin. You will only begin to know only after you begin to act!

The Critical Difference Between Invention and Innovation

You must be careful ensure that you are creating something that will someday be needed. This can be somewhat hard to tell from the beginning because an idea is never fully matured, it keeps unfolding with every additional step you take to make it a reality. This is the difference between invention and innovation.

An idea that is unique is an invention, but an idea that is both unique and useful is an innovation. This is a crucial fact that must never elude you as you strive to deliver change. Efforts must be made towards integrating usefulness into every unique idea.

A good way to do this is to form the habit of asking yourself this question:

How is this idea going to make the world a better place for someone?

By constantly questioning the idea, this keeps you in the creative process long enough for the idea to reveal its intrinsic usefulness – potential value of invention.

So no matter how unique [new] an idea may be, keep in mind that unless its time has come, its usefulness [potential value] may be no more than the lesson, knowledge and experience you gained from undergoing the creative process.

This shouldn’t stop you from pursuing another idea just because one or two or more didn’t work out; rather, this should propel you to continue because with every failed idea created through you, the closer you get to creating the one that will work.

Google for instance, has launched several products – such as Knol, a collection of user-generated articles, and Google Wave, a collaboration platform – that weren’t as successful as their smash hits like the search engine and Gmail.

It’s not the number of ideas that didn’t work that counts, but the habit of consistently creating unique ideas. As an entrepreneur, your task is to create ideas – whether they work or not is left to the market to decide.

The real failure is not an idea that didn’t work, but rather not coming up with any ideas at all. The only way to test if an idea has intrinsic usefulness is by creating it. You cannot know the eventual outcome of an idea until you commit and complete the process of creating the idea. That uncertainty will always be present.

This is the joy of the entrepreneurial mindset: not knowing completely how it will turn out. That’s why it’s called magic; the joy of discovery!

Over to You

How do you create?

Have you ever created something unique that didn’t turn out as useful as you had imagined?

How has your creative ability helped to sustain your business?

About the Author: Tito Philips, Jnr. is the unusual CEO of MADphilips who blogs about business and entrepreneurship on Naijapreneur! He’s currently recruiting an army of change-agents at UniteNigeria to help in the rebuilding of his motherland. Connect with him on Twitter @MADphilips.

How to get creative work done in an "always on" world

Productivity for Creative People

Mark McGuinness' latest book Productivity for Creative People is a is a collection of insights, tips, and techniques to help you carve out time for your most important work – amid the demands and distractions of 21st century life.

“Of all the writers I know, I have learned the most about how to be a productive creative person from Mark. His tips are always realistic, accessible, and sticky. It’s not just talk, this is productivity advice that will change your life.”

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More about Productivity for Creative People. >>

Responses to this Post


  1. Awesome Article! Thanks for posting.

  2. My advise is to produce ideas that cause your existing projects to branch out in new directions. It’s easy to have a constant stream of innovative ideas that are essentially all over the place, covering different fields and subjects, but execution of even 5% of those ideas is going to be very optimistic. Far better if your ideas are subtly linked so that they build on each other, reinforce each other and grow your core interests.

    • You mean like integrating your ideas into one another?

      If that’s what you mean, then I equally agree with you as it helps make your innovation efforts directed towards your overall strategic objectives.

      I think Apple is one company that has successfully done this with their i-range of products; iTunes, iPad, iPod, iPhones and what is to come. They all seem to build on one another.

      Thanks for the feedback. Great one!

  3. Advice, not advise, of course.

  4. Tito:
    I appreciate your careful distinctions and definitions. They’re helpful not only to me and to my entrepreneur clients but also potentially useful to some of my author clients. For instance, we often generate singular, elegant, and talkable ideas for non-fiction books, but your simple distinction between a unique idea and a innovative idea might provide concrete language that my clients will “get.”

    The “how” of your question – “How do you create?” – is seminal to work both as a writer and an entrepreneur. My creation mind needs two things to be productive and for my creation heart to feel gratified: 1) regular frames of time shaped and scheduled each week plotted and color-coded on a white board wall and 2) tools for keeping up with notes when I’m away from my study. The visual of #1 helps my creation mind know it will gets its “turn” every week among my many projects & responsibilities. #2 keeps track of my unconscious mind’s surprises while taking walks, etc.

    And #3: My creation body needs Yoga As Muse to keep my imagination and intuition nimble and agile.

    I visited the Google Creative Labs in Manhattan last week, by the way. Fascinating to learn how their best-selling app – Androidify – began with a co-worker prank.


    • Hi Jeffrey,

      Your breakdown of how you get creative is great. Mark has previously written about the need to be disciplined about our creativity by scheduling a specific time for creating. I have also heard Steven Pressfield mention it too in one of his posts, it helps to foster the creative habit.

      The Google story you cited is a typical example of how creativity is play. The habit is far more important than the outcome. Once the habit of being creative is formed by inventing play through our ideas, there is no limit to what the process will produce.

      Thanks for the Google addition. Brought some practicality to the point.

  5. wow. This article is a real good nudge in the right direction. It struck a chord because I have been brave and bold and put an idea into fruition. I know it works and I know it has a great potential. I just have to tweak and grow it and your post is going to help me because I will answer carefully the questions it poses, this will test things and push them further.

    “The real failure is not an idea that didn’t work, but rather not coming up with any ideas at all. The only way to test if an idea has intrinsic usefulness is by creating it. You cannot know the eventual outcome of an idea until you commit and complete the process of creating the idea. That uncertainty will always be present.”

    This is so true and a much better statement than many who just seem to mantra ‘fail, fail fast and fail again’ which means little to someone totally immersed in making something! In Steven Pressfield’s ‘Do the Work’ he congratulates us for making the work happen because its such a big deal.

    Taking the step of making an idea happen can be bold, impulsive and instinctive a creative brain! Then making it work requires a whole set of skills again.

    For me being creative means having amazing ideas and see around problems and find solutions with ease. I use my creativity to think around problems and explore new avenues and I have built a business around being creative, so its really in tune with my practice as well.

    Thanks Tito for a ‘keeper’ I am printing this, highlighting what I need to think about and pinning it to my wall.

    • Hi Binita,

      Thank you for the very insightful comment.

      Making the idea work is really such a big deal as Steven Pressfield rightly observed. Translating the idea from the intangible realm to a tangible form is really where the main test lies. And this is why the distinction between invention and innovation really comes in handy.

  6. Love this Tito! I particularly like the distinction between invention and innovation. There are probably hundreds of patents rewarded a day, but only a handful of those are actually going to meet the market and supply a demand. It’s important to never neglect the practicality and value of what we create. Although, it is sometimes fun to go “off-the-deep-end” creatively, just to test our limits.

    I also like this line:

    “It’s not the number of ideas that didn’t work that counts, but the habit of consistently creating unique ideas. As an entrepreneur, your task is to create ideas – whether they work or not is left to the market to decide.”

    A creative person isn’t someone that just has one million dollar idea. A creative person is ALWAYS creating, always testing out new ideas, and that is the breeding ground where “million dollar ideas” get born.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Hello Steven,

      Great to see that you were able to pick out some few nuggets from the post. Thanks for the kind words.

      You were very on point about the number of patents that get approved everyday without many ever making it to the market.

      As entrepreneurs, we must always seek out the intrinsic market value behind every idea we come up with at the same time, we must not be discouraged when the market doesn’t respond favorably as we might have expected.

      Good to have you around!