Many people, who would not qualify themselves as creative, find themselves studying markets, exploring and investigating as they look for opportunities. In the process they consider firms both large and small and the suppliers who work with them. They study the customer base for companies, the large customers like retail partners and the individual customers – the consumers. Pursuit of this line of study often comes from experience and deep knowledge of a particular market.
The entrepreneur who immerses him/herself in understanding these chains of business relationships will discover an occasional chink or weakness in the chain. In this weak point there is opportunity; some describe it as pain that the entrepreneur can relieve. Ta-da, a business idea is born, not by the most creative person in the room, but by the one who was willing to learn and look for opportunity where others might not see any. The ability to provide a solution and seize this opportunity is an opportunity to create value, which is the essence of success in entrepreneurship.
Although this may seem self-evident, consider an example from a young, developing entrepreneur. In a recent competition this local student studying entrepreneurship pitched a software program designed to assist restaurants with management of server effectiveness, job satisfaction and retention. With experience as both a chef and a catering company owner/chef, this young man discovered that the turnover rate for restaurants deteriorates service, increases expenses and costs the industry millions of dollars annually. With this discovery, the student who has already dabbled in entrepreneurship using his ability as a chef, now pictures himself providing software as a service in the global restaurant industry. Rather than cooking the food and supplying it to patrons, he will be a supplier to the restaurants.
If one were to categorize this student as either a “creative/innovative” type, or an “entrepreneur”, he would no doubt fall into the latter group. But can it really be said that he isn’t creative? The ability to take knowledge gained from deep experience in a particular area, search for pain, inefficiency or trouble in the supply chain and determine a viable solution is certainly a good description of entrepreneurship – but a clear argument could also be made for using this as a description of creativity in problem solving.
Is this young man a creative genius? Probably not, by most standards, but the judges at IdeaStateU (the Kentucky State Business Plan Competition for Undergraduates), felt his idea was worthy of a second place out of seven competitors in his category. The prize? Seed money to encourage him to persist and develop the idea which he is now doing.
The bottom line? Creativity comes in many forms; sometimes more colorful, other times more practical. In entrepreneurship solving a problem in a way that others have not is a good, creative way to begin.