Creativity is the currency for success in the business world—it’s the one thing that can’t be outsourced, author and entrepreneur Josh Linkner said Monday during the 19th annual CUNA Lending Council Conference in Phoenix.
“Credit unions need to double down on creativity,” says Linkner, a former jazz musician who draws parallels between that art form and small business start-ups.
Like jazz performers, start-up companies often exhibit high energy and creativity, take risks, and explore new ideas instead of rehashing what’s already been done, Linkner says. “There’s no operations manual we can follow to find success. Raw creativity is driving business forward.”
Consider the case of DollarShaveClub.com, which took on the likes of one-time market leader Gillette by selling low-cost razors online. The owner launched the business about a year ago, spent $4,000 on a creative promotional video that garnered three million viewers—and attracted 17,000 customers in a week.
“He was the jazz musician of razor blades,” Linkner says. “If that disruption can happen through raw creativity, just think what credit unions could do—and what risks do they face?
“The lesson is, no matter how successful we are, don’t think it’s a permanent condition. Our mission is to be on the forefront and think about what’s next, even when we’re ahead.”
Linkner offers five “big ideas” to drive creativity and results:
1. Encourage courage. Allow staff to be creative without fear of rejection or punishment. “Fear is the biggest blocker of creativity,” Linkner says. “If you can make people safe, you will unleash creativity in your organization. You might get some bad ideas, but you’ll end up with some good ones. Mistakes aren’t fatal; they’re the portal to discovery.”
2. Shed the past. You need to hunt down and kill old assumptions, Linkner says. “Get rid of what was in favor of what could be. Think about your own lending: Are you doing the same thing as always or are you looking to the next play?”
3. Create vivid experiences. This requires more of an investment in imagination than money. “You don’t have to be stuffy. If you can tell a story that’s different from your competitors’ stories, you’ll benefit.”
4. Reject bureaucracy and think small. Small companies are more likely to take risks, embrace urgency, and find new ideas instead of protecting old ones.
“Think small, like a start-up,” Linkner advises. “How would you approach your business if you were a start-up?”
5. Stand out. Do the opposite of what your competitors are doing. “Sometimes you have to be bold and different to get through the noise.”