Business creativity is the most important element in a growth hacker’s arsenal. That, coupled with the ability to analyze results, will put you and your business in a league of its own.
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The only problem is that most people sell their own creativity short.
Think about when you were a kid, you could turn a few pillows and bed sheets into an impregnable fortress. What about now, what does it take for you to really think outside the box?
In this post, I’m going to show you how to unlock the creative side of your mind that you don’t use nearly as often as you should.
But first, I want to take a look at some real life examples of what can happen when businesses get creative.
In a Forbes article, they shared a story of the Karma Hotspot which allows you to get an internet connection on the go. Now hotspots are nothing new, I use my phone’s hotspot all the time, but Karma is one of a kind.
Traditionally, you either prepay for an allowance of data you can use to surf the internet or you sign up for a monthly contract. The more people that connect to you, the less data you have for yourself.
It kind of make you want to hoard your data right?
The Karma Hotspot does the opposite, for every new user that connects to your device, you get an allowance of 100MB. Every time a new friend, family member, or complete stranger connects to you, the benevolent spirits at Karma Hotspot give you 100MB of data.
It doesn’t stop there; the allowance is also given to the person that connected to you when they opt to sign up for Karma Hotspot.
What do you do when your customers start asking you customer service questions on a platform you don’t have any real affiliation with?
You have two options.
Thankfully for Get Satisfaction, a tool that makes it easy for businesses to create and manage online communities, most companies chose the second option.
They made unofficial pages for companies like Acme Inc and Kayako. Over time, real customers of these established brands started to submit questions that needed to be answered.
The beautiful part is that anyone in the company can take control of the page and make it an official channel of communication.
Note: Get Satisfaction has taken some considerable heat for the practice of setting up unofficial pages and taking Google traffic from the actual companies. This type of strategy is not for the faint of heart because many people won’t like what you’re doing.
I’m sure you’ve played the original Candy Crush Saga and know how utterly addictive it is. Crush a few pieces of candy and move on to the next level. Levels which get progressively harder as you get deeper into the game.
Every so often, you’ll run into a level that’s almost impossible to get through without losing all your lives a few times.
When this happens, you’re presented with three options.
Being the kind of person I am, I must have sent out about two hundred invites to get free lives. No wonder Candy Crush made it to the most downloaded app list.
On a side note: after I ran out of friends to invite, I started to fast forward the time on my phone to get past the time restriction. That’s what I call getting creative.
Being creative doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel, in most cases, it means doing something just a little differently than your competition would have done it.
In our hyper connected world, it’s surprising to see how little it actually takes to get great traction in your business.
Let’s move on to some exercises you can do to take your creativity up a few levels.
This is a great exercise to try especially when it comes to developing marketing campaigns. When Facebook first started, it was used to share pictures and keep up with acquaintances. I have no idea when bloggers and marketers high jacked it and figured out it was a great source of traffic to their website.
It’s officially known as the alternative uses test developed by J.P. Guildford in 1967. This exercise is very simple and tasks you with finding alternative uses for everyday objects within a two minute timeframe.
Alternative uses for phones, chairs, blankets, pencils, etc. are all fair game and will get you thinking outside the box. You can even apply it to not so everyday objects, what are some alternative uses for your mailing list or your website that you can think up?
I did a quick exercise with using books as my everyday object and here are my results:
In addition to getting you to think outside the box, this test measures divergent thinking using four categories.
Your turn, try out the exercise with something common and then try it again with something more complicated like your sales funnel
A few years ago, Tim Brown gave a really engaging Ted Talk about the connection between creativity and play. I really suggest you take a few minutes out of your day to watch it.
The premise is simple, as we grow older; we care more and more about the opinions of people around us. This makes us stifle really off the wall creative ideas we come up with because they may not be accepted by our peers.
When we play, explorative play, those inhibitions fall off and we get lost in what we’re doing. We’re able to delve deeper and create without feeling judged.
I’m not saying you should turn that big contract into a game and miss the deadline, but I am saying you should allow yourself a lot of creative license. The most important thing is being able to put something out there and then let the market decide if it’s what they want or how you can change it to make it better for them.
If you work mostly with a laptop and internet connection, abstract things. Instead of playing with physical objects, you’re primarily going to be focusing on role playing.
For example, you’re about to build a virtual sales funnel. While you’re creating it, why not ask a few of your friends or family members to act like your consumer and just use it. Ask them questions and interact with them while they’re using it. This will yield invaluable insights to you as the designer.
Don’t just stop with sales funnels, do it with your websites, landing pages, service offerings, and anything else you can think of.
Doing this exercise allows you to understand where the bottlenecks are in your operation and hopefully inspire you to create solutions that’ll make a better experience for your customers.
Since you’re using it as a customer, your mind is also working as a customer and will allow you to think about what you as a customer would want to see.
Playing, explorative play and role playing are two necessary aspects to successfully unlocking your creative ability. Whether you’re brainstorming a new design or putting the finishing touches on your new website, immersing yourself in the experience is an amazing way to think outside the box and develop ideas that wouldn’t have come to your otherwise.
If I asked you “what would one million dollars get you”? You’d tell me about the house you could buy or the car you could call your own. If I asked “what would one million dollars do for you”? You’d probably tell me about freedom from worrying about a boss, paying off your mortgage, and being able to travel the world with your family.
The quality of the question determines the quality of the answer you receive.
Just like the questions a lawyer asks in a courtroom to lead a witness into saying something they wouldn’t otherwise have said.
In the last post, I outlined some of the questions you should be asking your current customers. These are the questions that’ll spur your creative juices and get you thinking about how you can be even more creative with growth hacking.
In this post on Lateral Action, Aaron shares a few ways to ask questions that’ll spur your creativity.
If you have a problem, state it as a question. Instead of saying, I need to improve the user experience on my website ask yourself Who do I know that can help me improve user experience on my website or what are some small tweaks I can make today and start measuring to improve the user experience on my website.
Some other questions to ask yourself to boost creativity.
See if you can think of any questions that force you to think outside the box.
Growth Hacking is an exercise in creativity and pushing the bounds of what’s possible with the resources available to you. Without creativity, you’re just repeating what’s been done before you, it may work, but it won’t get you the breakout success you’re looking for.
I want you to know, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be considered creative or to get your products and services in front of the right audience. In fact, it’s sometimes more important to go back to the basics and strip away all the complicated ideas to return to the essence of what you’re trying to achieve.
Let me know about any creative growth hacks you’re using or have heard about. (Please do not use Twitter, Facebook, AirBnB, or Pinterest. I’ve read about and been told about those ones more times than I care to remember).
See also: What is Creativity and Why Do You Need it? Cornerstone.edu