Every great business, product, service or movement has started the same way. Somebody had a spark of inspiration and then had the guts to do something about it. They chose to disregard how things were currently being done and looked for a better way. Ultimately, they ignored their critics and their own self-doubt to define a better solution for their audience and customers.

At the core of this is creative thinking. That is, the ability to look where everyone else has looked but to see what  no-one else has seen. In the incredibly complex world we live in this ability sets the great businesses apart from the rest.

Years ago when I started my first business I was told repeatedly that it wouldn’t work and it would fail within 18 months. Seventeen years later not only is the business still around but it is the market leader in its sector. Maybe I saw what others didn’t (I like to think so) but more likely I was too stubborn to fail. Whatever the reason one thing is certain, not a day went by when I wasn’t forced to think creatively. A small pool of funds and an obsessive fear of failure will do that to you.

Creative thinking is a much misunderstood term. It is not about art or design or inventing something new. It is more than that. It is a way of thinking that allows us to develop ideas to solve problems in different ways as well as to recognise, embrace and exploit opportunities. Creative thinking is the source of EVERY innovation and is the spark for EVERY change or improvement we make.

Nothing lasts forever and the fall of the photographic film, book and fax machine sectors was the direct result of creative thinking and innovation that led to the development of digital cameras, e-books, and scanners. Every industry faces its own challenges and the only protection is to relentlessly create, innovate, invent and re-invent everything we know about our businesses.

Central to this is to develop a culture of innovation and to do that you need a team that thinks creatively. It is the responsibility of all business leaders to locate the (sometimes hidden) creative thinkers in their organisations and bring them out into the forefront of their business’ development activities. Look for the mavericks and risk-takers in your organisation. The ones who won’t be silenced. The ones who have a healthy disregard for the present. The ones who are obsessive about finding ways to do things better.

These are the ones you need to protect, nurture, develop and retain. The payoff is they’ll come up with the great ideas that will underpin your future prosperity.

Author and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once said “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” That is the core of creative thinking. It is not an easy road but it is the only way to innovate and ultimately the only way to succeed…

PS. I am taking a break from writing next week. To read more content from The Bull click here.

Image By Dan Mountford