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Why creative entrepreneurship is vital to small business owners

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We asked serial entrepreneur and creative populist Carl Nordgren to weigh in on the concept of the creative entrepreneur. In this Q&A, he answers some of the most commonly asked questions.

Why do you call yourself a creative populist?

I believe that each of us and all of us must intentionally grow our creatively entrepreneurial qualities.

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What qualities must a creative entrepreneur possess?

It starts with the ability to see problems as opportunities to make things better. We need to develop the skills and instincts for selecting the best ideas and making them better through effective and graceful execution.

Why are these qualities so important to small business owners?

Small business owners don't face small problems. Their marketplace and organizational environments are highly complex.

All complex environments are made up of diverse and interdependent entities – employees, customers, prospective customers, suppliers and competitors – which adapt rapidly to each other's behaviours. With new strategies, new needs, fresh entrants in the environment, relationships among these entities are constantly in flux and the systems their relationships create are always changing.

Successfully navigating these arenas demands a creatively entrepreneurial hand on the tiller; someone who can detect emerging patterns, who can make smart decisions on shifting sands and who is committed to recruiting and developing creatively entrepreneurial talent throughout the organization.

The good news is these qualities can be learned – they not the gift of a privileged few.

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Do you believe we can all be creatively entrepreneurial?

A creative populist believes these qualities are inherent to the human condition.

Consider what you see when you watch 4-year-olds playing together. Think about how each of us learned about this world through the application curiosity and imagination.

A major research study by George Land and Beth Jarman showed that 98 per cent of us performed at a creative genius level at the core creative process of divergent thinking when we were 5 years old and in a Wired Magazine article, journalist Robert Neuwirth stated that worldwide, over 50 per cent of jobs are self-generated and the percentage is growing.

How do I go about cultivating my creatively entrepreneurial qualities?

The process is simple and for most, natural. Though most of us have allowed our creativity to lie dormant, I have observed thousands of instances in which it has come alive readily, as if eager to be awakened.

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This awakening requires but one thing; something we all have our greatest control over: Our Intent.

All it takes to start is a carefully considered declaration of your Intention to become more creatively entrepreneurial.

Bold declarations have the most immediate effect on your creatively entrepreneurial development – so declare it to yourself and then to others. From that moment, your perspective will change and you will start to see problems as opportunities.

Will the difference at first be incremental?

Almost certainly. But those minute changes are important. It's those first few steps that lead to others.

How do I apply my Intention?

Practice four creatively entrepreneurial behaviors that offer immediate strategic benefit to you and your business.

Be generous. Being generative means being generous, doesn't it? Ask yourself, why would the market ever be more generous with you than you are with the market, or why would your employees be more generous with your company than you are with your employees? Being in generous relationships with both sounds like success.

Additionally, be generous when responding to the creatively entrepreneurial ideas and actions of your employees is the best way to get more good ideas – when you want a great idea you need to generate lots of good ideas.

Humility is helpful for growth. It takes humility to appreciate how often what we don't know is more important than what we know. The healthiest organizations I've been a part of have had an emergent quality to them; they are always becoming what they needed to be next, because they didn't declare that what they were doing was the best or only way to do it.

The other two behaviours are be playful and be enthusiastic in pursuit of beauty. Research from the University of Toronto has demonstrated that your peripheral vision widens as your mood improves, suggesting that practicing some combination of these behaviors will also help you see more of the world and more opportunity as a result.

A final word?

As you consider the power of being creatively entrepreneurial, keep in mind we are not just applying these qualities to the development of better strategy or market making product innovations. We are applying this to the inches and minutes of daily organizational life, so we have a hundred victories every day.

Carl Nordgren is a serial entrepreneur, writer and teaches courses in Being Creatively Entrepreneurial at Duke University . You can find out more about his thoughts and get info about his new book, Welcome to the Creative Populist Revolution, at .

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