Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lesson # 2: Make Creativity the Centre of Your Company (Anita Roddick)

“It is a critical job of any entrepreneur to maximize creativity, and to build the kind of atmosphere around you that encourages people to have ideas,” says Roddick. “That means open structures, so that accepted thinking can be challenged.”

Entrepreneurs are visionaries, according to Roddick, and those who are in a uniquely situated position to change the world. They are people who want to imagine a different world and share that vision with others. As such, it is essential to foster the free flow of ideas, both within oneself and within one’s entire company.

Roddick is a fan of philosopher Karl Popper’s theory of an ‘open society’, which she claims is “the only kind of society that can solve its own problems.” At the forefront of this society are the entrepreneurs, those who have the imagination and determination to change the way things are done.

“Successful entrepreneurs may hate hierarchies and structures and try to destroy them. They may garner the disapproval of MBAs for their creativity and wildness. But they have antennae in their heads,” says Roddick. “When they walk down the street anywhere in the world, they have their antennae out, evaluating how what they see can relate back to what they are doing. It might be packaging, a word, a poem, even something in a completely different business.”
According to Roddick, entrepreneurs are by nature creative creatures. However, the path to success is rarely one that can be walked alone. It is this freedom of thought and expression that must also be encouraged throughout your company and amongst the team that is working with you towards your vision. “You always have to remember that what is most important in a company – or anything else – is unquantifiable in figures,” says Roddick. If you must measure your success, she says, do it “according to fun and creativity.”

Whether it is in small ways or large, entrepreneurs can change the world by seeing something new that others don’t. Entrepreneurs are a different breed of people and should thus act accordingly, suggests Roddick. “Whatever you do, be different – that was the advice my mother gave me, and I can’t think of better advice for an entrepreneur,” she says. “If you’re different, you will stand out.” Roddick’s business plan wasn’t revolutionary – she simply began using bottles more than once and she imagined a business with a heart. However, that was different enough to set her company apart from the rest.

Unfortunately, creativity is not enough to get ahead in the business world. Indeed, creativity is not taken well in many circles and thus the path to success can be paved with more obstacles than one bargains for. Thus, above all else, she says, entrepreneurs need to believe in themselves. “It is true that there is a fine line between entrepreneurship and insanity. Crazy people see and feel things that others don’t,” says Roddick. “But you have to believe that everything is possible. If you believe it, those around you will believe it too.” (Evan Carmichael)