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Creativity In Business: 3 Ways It Pays To Be Curious

Winston Ibrahim

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Entrepreneurship is anchored in creativity.

The best entrepreneurs see solutions to problems that haven’t been thought of before. They don’t just notice what something “is,” but rather what it could be. And as a result, they are the ones who end up changing and shaping the future.

The question is: how do you nurture creativity?

I believe part of creativity is innate—you’re either born wanting to see the world that way or you’re not. But you do not need to be the most creative person on the planet in order to become an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship isn’t quite the same as becoming a world-class painter or violinist. I would argue the creativity required to be a successful entrepreneur can be nurtured, so long as you are willing to live a life of curiosity.

Traveling, talking with interesting people, reading, watching documentaries, listening to perspective-shifting podcasts, and spending time in different types of communities all have the potential to spark the next great idea. And the more information you are exposed to as an entrepreneur, the more likely you are to see solutions to problems most people don’t even notice exist—or know exist but can’t think of a compelling way to solve them.

So, if you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, or already are an entrepreneur, here are 3 ways curiosity helps businesses.

1. Curiosity is what allows you to continue reinventing yourself and your business.

What works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow.

It’s the Blockbuster vs. Netflix dilemma. Or the Blackberry vs. the iPhone.

Just because you are able to solve a problem and build a successful business today, doesn’t mean that business is going to remain successful over the long term. In order to stay a leader, you are going to need to reinvent yourself over and over again (Apple is a great example here) to remain relevant. And the only way to do that is to stay curious.

For example, as a founder, I am confronted by this question every single day building Hydros, a water filtration company focused on providing clean water while reducing the number of single-use bottles and plastics. We have a handful of established products, however we are always thinking of new ways to bring our filtration technology to other spaces, other audiences and industries, in order to further our mission. And the moment we stop being curious about all the different ways we can increase and improve our ecosystem of products, that is the moment we stop growing.

And the moment you stop growing, you begin resting on your laurels as an entrepreneur.

2. Curiosity is the best trait to look for in employees.

Building a startup is not a linear endeavor.

There is no playbook, there are no “rules.” Much of business, as you come to find out, is about navigating the unique set of problems in front of you. Sometimes, those are product problems. Other times, they are people, process, or infrastructure problems. But just like death and taxes, one thing is guaranteed on every entrepreneur’s startup journey: obstacles to overcome.

As a result, you are going to need to surround yourself with people who are flexible, self-starters, and capable of finding unique solutions to unconventional problems. Curiosity is one of the most important things I look for in new hires—and the way I assess their curiosity is by asking certain questions that prompt them to think out of the box.

  • “If you were presented with this type of problem, how would you go about solving it?”
  • “What would you do if this process broke down? How would you fix it on your own?”
  • “What do you do when you don’t know the answer to something? What if no one around you knows the answer either?”

3. Curiosity and a shared sense of excitement around the problem are key when choosing partners.

Earlier in our company’s lifecycle, we worked with an incredible innovation firm, Nottingham Spirk, to help us attack complicated engineering problems and think about the most effective solutions (with the highest impact, lowest cost, and most viability for scale).

Whether you are working with a PR firm, an advertising agency, or a product development company, it’s important that you surround yourself with people who are just as curious about the problem as you are. Because if they’re not, they’re going to end up recommending outdated solutions to conventional problems. They’re going to miss the mark—and you’re going to feel a disconnect between the future you want to work toward, and whatever it is they’re proposing.

The way I like discerning between who are good partners and who aren’t is by looking at the types of things they are actively experimenting with themselves. Recent work can be a good place to start, but I also like questioning what else they’re thinking about, how they’re running their own internal experiments, and how curiosity is shaping the future of their own business.

These are important conversations to have before you partner up.

Finding the wrong partner can severely impair your business. Whereas finding the right partner can exponentially accelerate your growth.

I am the founder and CEO of Hydros, an innovative water filtration startup with proprietary technology that works at five times the speed of standard home filtration systems. We strive to create beautiful, convenient, and competitively priced portable and home filtration products to reduce the consumption of single-use disposable plastic bottles.

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