Skip to main content

When we think about entrepreneurs, the leading adjectives are hard working, industrious, opportunistic, focused and driven.

There is another attribute that should be part of the mix: creativity. While it's usually associated with artists, designers and writers, creativity lets entrepreneurs separate themselves from the pack by doing something new or by adding an interesting wrinkle to an existing product.

Last week at the meshmarketing conference in Toronto (which I co-organize), David Usher put an exclamation point on the day with a presentation about why we need to embrace creativity and to try to make ourselves more creative. Calling creativity a "learnable skill," Mr. Usher said entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs need to realize it's not something you have or don't have.

"Creativity is 95 per cent work and discipline and 5 per cent inspiration, and you never you get to the 5 per cent unless you get to the 95 per cent," he said.

Mr. Usher is an interesting case study of the power of creativity and how it can take you in different directions. A Juno award-winning musician whose career includes a stint in the popular band Moist, Mr. Usher is now an entrepreneur with interests in a variety of places, including online startups in the music and social-media sectors, and helping create websites for other organizations.

His latest project is Artists for Amnesty, in which artists let people download a song for free. In return, they need to sign up for Amnesty International Canada's mailing list.

If creativity is such a good thing, why aren't more people creative or trying to become creative? Mr. Usher, who performed several of his hit songs during his presentation, said the biggest hurdle is that people prefer to play it safe rather than taking risks. "When we take risks, that's when we run into the block roads of creativity – resistance and fear," he explained. "We love the rules because they keep us safe."

Mr. Usher said one of the keys to embracing creativity is recognizing that even though it involves risk, "you don't die."

"Take a breath, suck it up and move on to what you will make next," he said. Another key consideration, he added, is that the perfect conditions don't exist for creativity to happen – something many would-be entrepreneurs need to recognize when deciding whether to take the plunge.

"You can't wait for them or you will never start."