This is the third in a series of five articles on the attributes that all entrepreneurs must possess. I refer to these as the 5 C’s. They are: Conscious, Curious, Creative, Customer Focused and Creative.
Your consciousness has made you aware of a potential opportunity. Your curiosity has then further defined the parameters of the customer needs, the current offerings and the area of opportunity. This is where your creativity takes over.
The creativity of an entrepreneur allows them to look at an opportunity totally differently than anyone has looked at it before. Hundreds or even thousands of people may have looked at the same problem, but the entrepreneur sees it in a new light.
Most revolutionary business ideas are the sum of many, many creative breakthroughs. Take Uber for an example, sure there was the big idea that said “Why can’t I just summon a taxi with my smartphone?” Although in NYC, you just go to the street and hail a cab, in many other large cities (or even in certain neighborhoods) it’s not that easy. Uber is a creative solution to the problem of on demand transportation.
But even after the big creative idea other hurdles pop up that require the entrepreneur to be creative. Questions like, how do I know that the person picking me up is reputable? What about payment and tipping? How do we get around the medallion laws? How do I make sure that someone is available? Although these things seem totally obvious now, when they were first starting up they were just a couple of the dozens if not hundreds of hurdles that the founders needed to craft creative solutions to.
They didn’t have any new information. They just took the same set of facts and put them together in a new and unique way.
From asking the question why during their curiosity phase the entrepreneur may see things that everyone else assumed was required and realize that it can be done a different way or totally done away with.
But what does all that mean in the real world?
Take the example of Streamline. Streamline was a consumer direct home delivery company. They delivered groceries, dry cleaning, video rentals, prepared meals and a bunch of other products and services directly into the consumers home.
Many folks took this to mean that you take the grocery store and put it online exactly as it is. Streamline looked at it and said that they could change the paradigm to better match what the customer wants.
The big idea was, “Why am I pushing a cart up and down the grocery aisle when I know exactly what I want?” I have a list. When the list says “Chicken Breasts” I know exactly what that means. When it says dish detergent I know the brand, size and scent that I want. The company could take that list and get those products for me. But the really big idea was if you are doing this to save time, you don’t want to be stuck in the house waiting for delivery. So they created a way to deliver so that you didn’t have to be home. This went against what every other company was doing at the time.
One of the myriad of smaller creative solutions that they had to come up with revolved around selling things like bananas. When a customer wants to buy a bunch of bananas, do they want 2 lbs or do they want 6 bananas. Grocery stores sell by the pound because they buy by the pound, but the customer is telling themselves to buy 6. Streamline fixed this by selling them by the each. They bought bananas to a specification that said they must be between a range (.3 – .35 lbs each). And then they told the customer the weight range and the price each. The customer than bought the number of bananas they wanted. Most companies won’t sell this way because they buy the by the pound. Streamline figured out what the customer wanted and sold them that way.
The second example is nomo. nomo is a social app aimed at college students to let them know what is going on around campus. Currently events on campus are publicized 3 ways. There is the old fashioned flyer that is never available when you need it. There are emails, which are ignored by students. And there is the school website which has tons of data but is very hard to navigate. The big stumbling block in all of this is that the college administration is the gatekeeper, this means that it is a hurdle to get things approved and there is a leadtime required. You also can’t publicize things like parties.
The big idea here was to put all of the control into the hands of the students – to build a platform where each organization controlled their own page and their own calendar. To make it free of administration control it had to be ad supported. And to keep costs low, groups and their leadership had to be verifiable via publically available information. The app launched this week and it will be up and fully running on at least 3 campuses this fall.
Entrepreneurial Creativity is fundamentally about taking in all the same facts available to anyone else and putting them together in a way that no one else has thought of to allow for a unique solution for the customer.
Or put another way…
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” – Steve Jobs,