7 Creative Skills That Can Make You More Successful in Business

As published in the Huffington Post: May 17, 2014

For as long as I can remember, my teachers, parents, friends, mentors and educators said,  “A person is oriented either right brain (artistic, intuitive, subjective, more sensory disposed) or left brain (logical, analytical, objectively disposed).” I’m creative. Analytical? Never. I guess that means I need more left brain to be more successful in business.

The right brain-left brain theory originated in the work of Roger W. Sperry, a neuropsychologist/neurobiologist and Nobel laureate. Later research has shown that the brain is not nearly as dichotomous as once thought. Your brain can actually switch from right to left and left to right any time you choose. The April issue of Neuropsychology, published by the American Psychological Association, reported that abilities in subjects, such as math, are actually strongest when both halves of the brain work together. (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2004/04/interhemispheric.aspx)

I had this “switching moment” by accident in my mid-30s. I was teaching in the theater department of a university and I hit the glass ceiling. The president of the university told me that if I wanted to do more in theater, I should get off campus. I was never business oriented, but I charged ahead and co-founded and co-managed Nevada’s first professional theater out of a strong creative need.

The theater was the perfect incubator to teach me how to be successful in business. It exemplified  the right brain/left brain collaboration. Most theater people are right brain, so my team and I used our left brain to create a successful business model based on knowledge and instinct.


Based on that experience (and many, many more), these are 7 skills of creative people that I believe can make you even more successful in business:

1)    A creative person is willing to learn.

Although our theater was created by people who had never run a business, we studied theater models and gathered different perspectives as we approached our nascent business. We began with open minds and a collective willingness to aggregate new ideas and theater models. Our willingness to brainstorm, dialogue, role-play and come up with plans to sustain our vision inspired people to buy tickets for our productions and to raise money to sustain our efforts. Business models can benefit by creative ideas – it’s just the particulars that are different. Sticking only to the analytical or the logical doesn’t necessary produce a product or sell an idea. A willingness to learn and be open is the key strategy for success.

2)    A creative person is curious.

My theater partners and I discovered that we were not particularly good at solving problems we weren’t familiar with, but we were curious enough to gather a wealth of information on how theaters are structured, what successful plays they produce and what management style works best to run a theater. We needed technical people and we solved that problem with a random encounter with the stagehand union in Las Vegas. They supplied teams of talented theater people who loved the idea of a stand-alone professional theater. There may be a tendency for left-brain people to stop searching and learning after the analysis is done. But that’s when the creative work actually begins as curiosity takes center stage and keeps the business fresh and relevant.

3)    A creative person is self-critical.

When one of us in the theater suggested an idea for a play or a marketing plan and it was rejected, we knew that was not the time to withdraw and lick wounds. It was time to be self-critical. Being self-critical is a right brain element for any business to have continued success. Being vulnerable, open and honest is paramount to being creative. Suggesting ideas and feelings is part of the process of business development. Recoiling in a pout is not.

4)    A creative person has passion.

It’s hard to believe but there are people who own or manage a business who have little or no passion for what they do. Theater people have passion for they do; they love the idea of presenting plays for the pubic. No doubt successful theaters are challenged to keep producing, and if there is no consuming passion for the product, a theater has no legs. It’s true of any business. Success in business depends on the passion of all concerned. It’s not simply committing to a company that’s important; it’s the dedication and the energy directed every day to produce, sell or manage a product with belief.

5)    A creative person is inspirational, intuitive and instinctive.

For creativity to flourish, these elements must underpin a business management style in order to frequently flourish and re-energize. Creative people do this naturally. It might not be integral for a business environment to be inspirational because there is so much analysis involved so much data to process; yet these soft tools are vital to nurture a company and forge close bonds and dynamic relationships.

6)    A creative person possesses a high degree of self-expression.

This creative skill is ongoing and there is no other process so important as being able to express ideas and feelings honestly without self-censoring. A theater setting is a potpourri of self-expression with a myriad of reactions and energies. Every business should sustain a certain amount of self-expression without judgment or labels. Self-expression is a bold way to find new ways to grow a company.

7)    A creative person surrounds him- or herself with the best people.

Since a theater is an incredibly collaborative effort, it is a must to work with people who are better than you and have the potential to shine. Anyone in business will succeed beyond expectations surrounded by the best creative talent. Creative people are the special ingredients that add value to your company.  They see a need, solve a problem and skillfully execute when given the opportunity. It’s not always about the bottom line; it’s about the other aspects of your business that support the bottom line.

I believe that you can be more successful in business if you apply these creative skills. It may be a bit out of your wheelhouse at first, but try it. I guarantee nothing less than success.

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