Idea Incubator 9: The Creative Compass


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glass collection of Liane Sebastian
Similar to an identity crisis of choosing a career and developing strengths, the concept crisis is equally shaking. Inward conviction is not the same as being inspired from outward circumstances. To apply creativity to business, a clear inner focus and viable outward position have to be in sync and then communicated. The roots, of how an organization presents itself must be deep—behind the simple presentation is an entire business culture.

Ideas originate from well-defined parameters, point of view, and imagination, mixed together in a cauldron of mental marination. Abilities and resources need to match a goals; start by finding the audience. Study their behavior and their needs. Don’t create new ideas unless your inner compass aligns with your direction.

Andrea March shares some of the same convictions that I do but her contributions are totally different. As a co-founder of Women’s Leadership Exchange, I met her when attending their Chicago conferences. WLE continually changes, grows, and finds new ways to assist women entrepreneurs. Andrea talks about purpose and inner compass as the origins of creativity:

“Start with your own desires and needs. Invent what you need to address a grievance, right a wrong, add a convenience, or address a confusion. You and yours become your model.”
—Andrea March, contributor to Women who Win at Work

Creativity is honed best when applied through the clarity of a defined purpose assuming it is realistic. Answer these questions to build a statement you can fulfill. Get to the heart of what motivates you as a way of stating purpose, thus setting your creative compass. This mini-self-seminar can apply to careers or projects. It offers a method to discover the source of your best ideas. I will use my answers as an example of the process:

1. What grievance do you most have with your lifestyle, product use, environment, and/or economic opportunities?
Example: With two sets of soap boxes, I feel pulled. So I run two columns in this blog that address societal and business issues:
Publishing Pioneer—causes that clients focus upon, their publishing mistakes that cause missed opportunities, new experiments with formats, wisdoms gained from experience, advice for communication challenges. Each medium needs to be crafted for its strengths and leveraged with others.
Women who Win at Work—promoting women in business—addressing media stereotypes of dragon lady executives, the high divorce rate of high-earning women, a redefining of family, and the confidence crisis. I write about all of these and team up with others who work on education, opportunity options, funding, and business-growing support. Societies where women flourish are societies where everyone flourishes.

2. How do others share in the annoyance, confusion, or need?
Example: Publishing Pioneer—collaborations form to meet client goals, their missions inspire and I explore options for creative visual vocabularies and communications. This means placing myself in the audience’s shoes and get to know the market.
Women who Win at Work—being a member of this niche makes addressing it through personal experience easier. By authoring, I bring greater visibility to the wisdom and advice from leaders through my books, to the great women business writers through collections, to profiles that offset the stereotypes of successful women in articles, investigate creative support ideas in this blog, and help others sustain initiatives through my skills. Having a successful romantic resume in addition to my business resume, I’d like to be more help in addressing the divorce rate….

3. Which aspects of your work make you the most passionate? What part of the process do you look forward most to doing?
Example: Again, two things for me: creating pages and collaborations. I can spend blissful hours in Word, PhotoShop, page layout programs, drawing programs, and Dreamweaver. Then I am most inspired by discussion, examples, patterns, history, trends, challenges, injustice, opportunity constraints, and media parameters.

4. What part is the most challenging?
Example: Getting paid for it. Sorry to be so crass. The unfortunate reality is that I have a mortgage and bills. I’d be much happier if I could simply give away my publishing and communication skills to those most worthy. Consequently, I make a practice of maintaining 10% pro bono. But not only do I need money to live, money demonstrates the client’s seriousness. No organization can thrive on pro bono design and communication without becoming fragmented and ineffective. Thriving organizations usually attribute growth to relevant publications and programs, in that order. (Publications are primary because they reach all members versus the percentage that show up at an event.) Consistency takes attention and that’s where a lot of money-strapped nonprofits actually waste by not committing to a source that can more than pay for itself.
Additionally, I sell books to augment income. Selling product versus service has different parameters that can work counter to one another if not strategically leveraged.

5. Combine landscape and niche (the four answers above) to clarify your creative purpose in one sentence. Follow this formula: Use 3 to address 1 and 2 that will accomplish 4.
Example: For me, plugging into this formula comes out with two variations:
a. Create pages to address nonprofit’s poor use of communication tools and form collaborations that can help build their businesses and consequently my career.
Thus, I have launched a e-books and tip sheet series, my blogs, and authored Digital Design Business Practices.
b. Create pages to address women’s business issues and form collaborations with organizations to further education.
Thus I wrote Women who Win at Workto profile 35 exemplary women, contribute articles that address executives and entrepreneurs, speak to women’s organizations, and hostess a store of the best books by and for businesswomen.

My example uses this formula for my overall direction, but you can use it for projects as well. The resulting sentence may not be elegant, but it is accurate. You may choose not to share it with anyone, but it helps to focus decisions.
Does the formula work for you?

Consider the previous Idea Incubators:
This blog begins Part 2: the Creative Mind.
See the previous posts for:

Part 1: The Positioned Mind weaves together a foundational tapestry for creative thinking. Like any great endeavor, a journey takes preparation: shopping for materials, packing the right equipment, and choosing a road map. Create the environment to be creative.

See the developing series of Idea Incubators.

Liane Sebastian, illustrator, designer, writer, and publishing pioneer


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One Response to “Idea Incubator 9: The Creative Compass”

  1. Idea Incubator 24: Emotions as Creative Guideposts « Wisdomofwork's Blog Says:

    […] “The Creative Compass“    Gain clarity through matching conviction with circumstance. #10: “Origins of […]

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