THE BLOG
10/25/2012 02:31 pm ET | Updated Dec 25, 2012

Harvesting the Gold in Your Business

Each one of you has hidden gold in your business -- creative gold. You just have to find it, harvest it and then monetize it. Your ideas are a treasure chest, but you need to learn some secrets to unlock it. By leveraging your best ideas, you can turn your imagination into heartfelt products and services resulting in a prosperous business and a fulfilled life.

Worried that you might not be creative? Creativity is not just for artists and writers. We all have the software to be creative, but many of us have forgotten how to use it. Most of us as children used our creativity all day long by asking relentless questions, making, or building things with wild abandon, trying out novel experiments and saying what we really thought about things. Then, many of us got stifled and vowed to avoid criticism at all costs. So many of us shut down and lost the joy of play and exploring. But creativity can be reawakened!

Creativity is simply about making new connections between things or ideas. It is the production of something original and useful/beautiful. The creative process combines your Divergent Thinking -- generating many unique ideas -- and your Convergent Thinking -- combining those ideas into the best result -- that requires focused attention. Creativity is open to everyone in any walk of life. We access our creativity whether we change a recipe or design a unique marketing campaign.

In Daniel Pink's wonderful book, A Whole New Mind, he says we are now in the Conceptual Age where we need to use our skills in design, story, symphony (synthesis), empathy, play, and making meaning. Creativity is a synthesis of our right and left brains and we need both sides working at maximum capacity to have a successful business and an edge in the global marketplace. Whether or not you have your own business yet, your life is a business, as well as an art.

A recent poll of 1500 CEOs identified creativity as the number one leadership competency for the future. Yet we have a creativity crisis in America, as creativity scores for kids in grades K-6 are dropping. In the meantime, Europe, China and our other global competitors are teaching creativity to both kids and adults and sponsoring special programs to promote innovation. They are laughing at our "teach to the test" educational model and our foolish cutbacks in the arts and other classes in schools and communities that teach creative thinking and confidence.

Creativity is key to personal and business success, and we need more acclaim for successful creative women. The two founders of Vera Bradley, who already had two businesses together, were waiting for an airplane many years ago and noted that luggage was too heavy and unattractive. They decided then to design beautiful luggage for women and grew a multi-million dollar business. Their colorful, lightweight fabric bags are in stores everywhere and we are most grateful for their ingenuity.

Loretta LaRoche, a well-known comedienne and a regular on PBS, started out in fitness. She then got interested in yoga/meditation, which morphed into stress management. As she had been a ham her whole life, she decided to combine stress education and humor. Loretta has this remarkable gift to get us to laugh at ourselves for getting all stressed out about ridiculous things. Two of her hilarious books are Relax -- You May Only Have a Few Minutes Left and Life is Short So Wear Your Party Pants!

All three of these women noticed something that could be improved upon, tuned into their creative problem-solving skills, and invented new paradigms. Creative ideas revitalize you and your company, and can generate potential revenue streams.

Here are three secrets to help you to mine those sparkling jewels percolating in your brain:

SECRET #1: Stimulate and Value your Ideas

Inspiration is the cornerstone of the creative process. It can be an idea, a hunch or any curiosity that beckons you. Even if you don't understand it, grab it. If you get an idea or see an enticing image, freeze. Capture it as quickly as possible, whether it's on your phone, on paper, or on Pinterest. When you get a golden idea, celebrate it. Your ideas are precious and will lead to new connections. The creative quest has lots of surprises, so play with your clues like a puzzle and see what emerges.

SECRET #2: Dive In

Can you remember a time when you were shamed/rejected/criticized for expressing a creative idea? Parents, teachers, competitors, etc. can be vicious and slash your self-confidence with a glance, a comment, or by ignoring you. You must block out and heal those old memories and begin to work on excavating your creative gold, with no expectations of being right or achieving perfection, at first. When those negative internal and external voices pop up, write them down on a piece of paper and burn it, seriously! Just keep doing your work and use affirmation cards or apps to inspire your courage. We all need to learn to co-exist with fear of failure in order to learn everything we can about our passion.

SECRET #3: Take Positive Risks

Positive risks are calculated risks that nurture your mind, body, spirit and heart -- they are good for you. To risk means, "to sail around a cliff." In order to find the gold in your business, you have to "get in the sailboat" and explore the unknown. Highly creative women filter out things, people and energies that siphon off their creative energy, so that they have more energy to more deeply explore and complete their creative initiatives.

As business owners, we need regular time out from all the day-to-day details to focus on our creative muse. Schedule thinking/research/adventure days, which often need to be away from the office. You must befriend your creativity and make that relationship a top priority. Otherwise, you are leaving money on the table and forgoing the chance to make a difference with your creations.