A new idea can transform a business from good to great. Why are there so few great companies? Because most don’t know how to build a culture of creativity – and all too many build cultures that suppress creativity. So then, is your business mind nurturing or mind numbing?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with (and for) highly creative organizations. Here are five of the most striking creative characteristics I’ve observed in them.


Humility is a virtue for many reasons, not the least of which is that it keeps a business from having a know-it-all attitude. Humility is understanding that you don’t have all the answers, that you can learn something from anybody, that you can always do better and be better. Humility is the enemy of smugness and complacency.


Creative organizations tend to be inverted pyramids, where your boss spends a small amount of time bossing you around and a lot of time figuring out how to make your job more fulfilling. Firms with a servant mentality know that the best ideas are grass roots ideas, that innovation happens at the street level. They know that marketable creativity comes from understanding individual needs – the needs of employees and needs of customers. A servant mentality is the enemy of the ivory tower. 


You know the old saying about working on the business instead of in the business. But since there is so much comfort in immersing oneself in the details and chores of the day-to-day routine, this advice is routinely ignored. Companies that generate ideas understand the value of taking a break, of stepping away. As a result, they’re punching out ideas instead of punching clocks. Schedule mastery is the enemy of the comfortably numb.


Having an experimental culture means more than being inquisitive and having a willingness to try something new. It also means being willing to make a mistake (something altogether different), an understanding that good ideas are a dime or dozen and the only way to prove them out is to take action on them. Thus, an experimentally minded firm spends its time working on stuff, while the experimentally averse firm spends time in meetings. Experimentation is the enemy of pointless conversation.


Compare a free market economy to a controlled economy and you’ll immediately see the former is a hotbed of creativity and the latter is a hotbed of stagnation. What’s true in the big picture is true on the street. The most creative firms love competition, hate being average, hate being like everybody else. A competitive spirit never settles. It is the enemy of mediocrity.

How Does Your Company Stack Up?

Staying humble in the face of success, being a servant of others but a master of your own time, blending experimentation with determined competitiveness –  these are tough marks to hit. Behind all of it, though, the need to recognize that creativity is important, and something that can be nurtured, as opposed to something that just happens or doesn’t happen spontaneously. So, then …

  • How creative is your business right now?
  • What adjustments can you make today to make your business more creative tomorrow?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below!