The Creative Side of Business

 "The entrepreneur is like an artist,
only business is the means of his expression"

I’m a big fan of this quote from Bernie Goldhirsh in Bo Burlingham’s book Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big because I think it captures the essence of entrepreneurship so well.

Entrepreneurship is a blend of creativity and rationality. Creative, in that it’s about seeing possibilities, painting a picture of a different future, inspiring and motivating others and, ultimately, producing something tangible that gets people interested. Emotion plays an important role – whether you call it passion, drive, fun, or something else.

The conventional view of business emphasises rationality, particularly the more quantitative disciplines like finance, economics, operations, and strategy. Think about activities like collecting data, analysing alternatives, modelling the effect of changes, and making decisions which maximise shareholder value. The role of emotion is limited – in fact, it’s often seen as a disruptive influence on what should otherwise be an objective or dispassionate exercise.

The reality is that business needs a balance of creativity and rationality.

If a business is entirely creative and artistic, chances are it will go bust – because without good disciplines and the rational consideration of decisions, the firm will probably get blindsided by financial realities.

But if a business is entirely rational and objective, it may become soulless, uninspiring and stand for nothing other than making money. Without a spark of creativity, it will struggle to connect with and retain its employees and customers.

What is true for business in general is even more true for entrepreneurship. This is because rational decisions are difficult in an environment of high uncertainty, and because a new venture only gets off the ground if it can draw upon the energy and passion of early employees, partners and customers. To go from an idea and a blank canvas to a thriving enterprise – that is the entrepreneurial challenge.

Society needs that creative energy of new businesses because, as Bernie Goldhirsh puts it, "this is so fantastic that one person can do so much in terms of creating a business, creating an enterprise, creating jobs, increasing the tax base. So much good comes out of this one person and his idea and his willingness to go ahead and start a business".

Bring on 2008.

Image:  "Getting started…" by  Petra on Flickr