“Love is…”, a comic strip by Kim Casali that was popular in the 1970s, discussed different aspects of loving and being loved, using simple messages shared between two lovers. In this column and the next, let’s talk about the different aspects of creativity (after all, this is “Creativity Un-Ltd.”, not “Love Un-Ltd.”). What is creativity? What does it mean and encompass? How do we know if something is creative? What are the key aspects of creativity?

1. Creativity is… useful.
“The value of an idea lies in the using of it”, said the American inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Edison. A great creative idea must be useful; it must be meaningful and make the world a better place; it must address a worthwhile issue in a relevant, appropriate, functional way. How do you know if your idea is useful? Here’s Edison again: ”Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” And “The Father of Advertising”, David Ogilvy, echoed this when he said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

Questions: How much meaning do your value propositions make? How to make your products and services more meaningful and useful? What does your sales trend tell you about the usefulness of your products?

2. Creativity is… fresh and new.
“Creativity is seeing something that doesn’t exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God,” said Michele Shea. All truly creative ideas are really new. While they usually build on existing concepts, creative ideas are fresh and unprecedented. And like fresh milk, ideas should be dated so you can act on them before they go bad.

Questions: How fresh are the ideas that your business is built on? What’s their expiration date?

3. Creativity is… original and unique.
If it’s not original, it’s not creative. Albert Einstein was joking when he said, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Truly creative ideas are one-of-a-kind. They are unique. And like those ideas, the geniuses who produce them are themselves one-of-a-kind, and they celebrate what makes them unique — even when it means being deemed misfits or “black sheep” who do not belong in the herd.

Questions: How original and unique are the things that you offer to your customers? Are you offering “me-too” products and services, or are they original, unique creations? How much of your originality and uniqueness do you display in your work?

4. Creativity is… beautiful.
R. Buckminster Fuller said, “When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” Aside from being fresh, original, useful and functional, the best creative solutions are beautiful.

Questions: How beautiful are the products, services, and solutions that you provide to the market? How can you make them more beautiful, even sexy?

5. Creativity is… simple.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Simplicity is another hallmark of creativity. But why? “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction,” said Albert Einstein. Some of the most creative products or solutions are notable for their simplicity. As jazz musician Charles Mingus said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

Questions: How simple or complex are your market offerings? How can you add more value to your clients and yourself by making things simpler?

6. Creativity is… playful, funny, and fun.
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves,” said the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Having a surprising insight or conceiving a new, original idea is often a by-product of creative play. As my fellow creativity coach Mitch Ditkoff said, “It’s no accident that AHA and HAHA are spelled almost the same way.” Because creativity and play go hand in hand, outstanding creative concepts contain elements of fun, wit and playfulness, and most creative geniuses are witty, playful people, too. For example, Pablo Picasso said, “God is really another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style. He just goes on trying other things.”

Questions: How playful and humorous is your workplace? How much fun is it for your clients to do business with you? How can you increase the fun factor at your company to make it more creative?

7. Creativity is… pleasurable, addictive, hedonistic, and sexy.
“Creativity is a drug I cannot live without,” said the Hollywood movie producer Cecil B. DeMille. Living a creative life is addictive and pleasurable, which is why anyone who has the courage to live life creatively cannot go back to working in what Scott Adams calls “Cubicleville”. The pleasure that creativity gives those who create is often reflected in outputs that are pleasurable to watch, use, and interact with, and may even have sex appeal. Deepak Chopra said, “Creativity is ultimately sexual — I’m sorry — but it is!”

Questions: How addicted to creativity are you? How can you make your value offerings more pleasurable and sexy?

8. Creativity is… infectious.
Last but not least, let’s end with another insight from Albert Einstein: “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” If you enjoyed this article, please pass it on to your colleagues. And watch for part 2 of this next article in two weeks’ time, when I will give you eight more insights about what “Creativity is…”