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Management Practices

The Art of Creativity

Stacey Soble | January 15, 2015 | 4:14 PM

Service providers and retailers outside the beauty industry have had to compete with the increasing growth of Internet sales. This has resulted in a number of retailers led by Apple, implementing a radical business model that required creative thinking. The same consumers that shop at Apple visit our salons. Today’s salon owner will have to re-evaluate their business model, on how to be more creative.

Where does creativity come from? What if you could locate the exact position in the brain where it comes from? Artistic creativity is a neurological product—it is the science of innovation. We are moving close to a position where we will be able to manipulate circuitry linked to creativity. The same way that you take a cup of coffee in the morning for its nuero-pharmacological effects. It will be the same with a creativity pill. It's time to work on this design, or a photo shoot. Let me take a pill that will get me in my groove a little more easily.

Why are some people bold connectors of ideas and others not, when everybody has the capacity to be creative? To avoid risking failure and ridicule, many people subconsciously reject information that contradicts received wisdom without exploring its possibilities. Deadlines make it worse. When faced with a challenge, people focus on what is obviously relevant and this confines thinking to predictable paths. 

How do we get closer to the source of creativity? Is it something that we can nurture from a young age?

I heard a great story recently of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson at school. She was six and was sitting at the back of the classroom. The teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention, but in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher went over to her and asked, "What are you drawing?" The girl replied, "I am drawing a picture of God." And, the teacher said, "But nobody knows what God looks like." The little girl responded, "They will in a minute."

Kids will take a chance. If they don't know, they will have a go. They are not frightened of being wrong. If we are not prepared to be wrong, we will never come up with anything original. By the time they are adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong and they go on to run their companies by stigmatizing mistakes. The result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacity.

Picasso once said, “All children are born artists; the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” I believe we don't grow into creativity, but we grow out of it, or rather we get educated out of it.

It is fear that stops us reaching our endless potential of creativity. If I put a plank on the ground two feet wide and thirty feet long, I am going to walk on it without looking down at the plank. I can go back and forth and jump up and down with no problem. Now I am going to put the plank 300 feet in the air, and I would not go near it.

Intense fear paralyses us; it affects the way the brain works. When we have fear and anxiety we are not distracted and we can focus. When we are anxious, we release nuero-transmitters in the brain, which focuses us. When we are happy our brain emits dopamine into the pre-frontal lobes, which makes us problem solvers and out-of the-box thinkers.

Creativity is the process of putting your imagination to work. With imagination you can enter other people's worldviews, you can empathize, and try and see the world as they do.

It is one thing to have creative capacities; it's a different thing to know how to develop them. As an example, we didn't teach our children to speak. We didn't sit them down at the age of one and say, "Listen we need to talk, or rather you do!" That doesn't happen. They learn by a process of imitation, which draws on a natural capacity to speak. Children at a very young age demonstrate all kinds of creative capacities, but if you don't develop them they may not evolve.

Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. There was no education system before the 19th century. This evolved to meet the needs of industrialism. Mathematics, English and Science were priorities. We were benignly steered away from subjects we liked on the basis that you would never get a job.

In the next 30 years, more people worldwide will be graduating through education since the beginning of history. Future degrees will not be worth what they have been in the past.

We need to radically rethink and revise our view of intelligence. Fear and creativity are conjoined twins. People are so afraid of their fear that they end up killing creativity. Creativity is going into the uncertain, and the uncertain is always scary. 

The Creativity of Environmental Psychology

You may not be aware as you walk through a supermarket, but every aspect of the experience has been carefully designed to maximize the amount of money you will spend by the time you walk out. This includes elements like placing staples such as milk on the farthest wall from the entrance, so that you are exposed to the other merchandise to get there. Putting foods with kid appeal on lower shelves so they can see and lobby for it and putting impulse buy items at the Check Out. Even the smell wafting from the bakery has been calculated to increase the number of items in your shopping cart. Though we'd like to think we are buying only needed products, we are not immune to subconscious cues.

Designing environments

Supermarkets and serious retailers never try to reform man, that’s much too difficult. What they do is modify the environment in such a way to get man moving in preferred directions.

When we design for behavior change, we are much more successful than if we rely on persuasion. The environment surrounding an individual, affects their behavior. Creating a situation that encourages and supports behavior changes, increases the likelihood that those positive choices will be sustainable for a long time. The click versus brick story isn’t new and the repercussions have been felt for over a decade. Some salons need to change their mindset from worrying about, 'How can we compete?' when they should be focusing on 'How can we engage?' It’s not just about bridging the gap between the physical and digital: the former needs to learn from the latter.

Salons need to change their mindset from "How do we compete?" to "How can we engage?"

Great products trump most things, but as the products and services become more alike, it’s even more important to distinguish a salon from its competition through its behaviors and beliefs. When physical spaces are designed as extensions, with whole branded experiences to both context and customer at their core, truly amazing moments occur.

Creative Possibilities

Possibilities are a force that has transformed the world. It is possibilities that have allowed us to go to the moon, seek new vistas and to invent the Internet.  A recent study in evolutionary biology asked the question, "What is the most powerful driving force, with regard to growth of the human brain?" The study found that the brain has shifted from being a perceptual organ to an influential organ. We are wired for possibilities. Your brain will move you towards your goal, long before you know it. It is called preemptive perception.

When you are on a path to go from where you are to where you want to be, look inside. When all else fails, imagine. Because imagination is an extremely powerful force that activates the action center of the brain.

Human life is inherently creative. It’s why we all have different resumes. We create our lives and can recreate them as we go through them. It's the common currency of being a human being. We all create our own lives through this restless process of possibilities, but creativity cannot flourish in mechanistic conceptions. Death Valley is the hottest, driest place in America. Nothing grows there because it never rains. In the winter in 2004 seven inches of rain fell over a very short period. In the spring of 2005 there was a phenomenon. The whole floor of Death Valley was carpeted in flowers for a while. What it proved was that Death Valley isn’t dead, it’s dormant. Right beneath the surface are these seeds of possibility waiting for the right conditions to come about. If the conditions are right, life and creativity is inevitable.

The question is not how to compete—it’s how do we evolve? We need to create a culture of possibilities in our salons. If we do that, people will rise and achieve beyond anticipation!

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly!

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