After 11 months of an uninterrupted race to secure new contracts, increase our market share and deliver market research, new ideas and concepts to our customers, the time had come to go on vacation and prepare for the next 11 months.
Being just back from vacation what I can say is that I couldn’t really stop working. Clients were still calling in, I was interviewed by 3 magazines, send a few quotes. Business as usual except that I was 1500 km from Brussels and had time to think and reflect.
Actually the most salutary aspect of vacations is that one can actually think and refuel his/her creative potential. In our business customers are extremely demanding in terms of innovative concepts and disruptive ideas. Next to complex market analysis they expect also a great deal of innovation in our recommendations on their business plans and market studies.
Yet, to foster creativity and innovation one also need time to let his/her mind be pollinated by novelties. And to do that you need time … for you. I’ve three main recipes that I use to train my creativity and let new ideas emerge.
RECIPE 1: Visit, Visit, Visit
The first thing I do is to expose myself to novelties. There are several ways to do that but I basically use two of them. The first one is to schedule and carefully plan 1-day trips to main cities in Europe. When they are well prepared (through a professional online research for instance) such trips allow you to see, feel and test new concepts in a wide range of industries. I’m by nature especially interested by the luxury sector (when top tier innovations usually emerge) and the food business.
Next to visiting real stores what I also do is to visit places where I’m sure to find a high concentration of innovative companies. These places have a name: professional fairs. I usually don’t limit myself to fairs in my sector (actually I NEVER attend marketing fairs) but rather chose to visit fairs the topics of which can serve our customers. My favorite fair is the SIAL but I have also planned attendance to fairs related to premium food, packaging, franchising and IT in 2013-2014.
RECIPE 2: Read, Read, Read
New ideas are everywhere, especially in others’ brains. Some people are kind enough to propose their ideas to the judgment of the outer world: books, articles, blogs, you name it. I also try to write as much as possible to train my brain and my creativity as I explained in an earlier post.
Holidays are the perfect time (if your kids leave you in peace) to quickly read a bunch of books and let ideas mix together. Although I find the time I dedicate to this activity is not sufficient, I practice as much as possible the following exercise: I prepare a mix of serious books and articles in my domain, books and articles on totally different things (say psychology, sociology, politics) and I try to quickly read them in alternance. I’m not trying to retain everything but simply to get a flavor of the new ideas that populate the books and articles and that could serve me in the future. Highlighting the most striking sentences is a way to find them back later (and here I must say that the Kindle is a marvelous device to help you with this professional goal). After a while new ideas and concepts will pop up in your mind almost spontaneously …
RECIPE 3: Meet, Meet, Meet
Recipes 1 and 2 are great but will never replace the enriching experience of meeting other human beings. Because meeting with someone else and having thoughtful conversation is a difficult and time-consuming exercise, I advise to choose carefully those you intend to meet to enhance your creativity. It makes no sense pick someone at random and hope and he’ll show you the light in 2 hours. The probability that those 2 hours will be worthless is high. Rather, use Recipe 1 (visit, visit, visit) and Recipe 2 (read, read, read) to make a shortlist of people that seems interesting to you and your business AND that are reachable. Richard Branson, Michael O’Leary and the other famous CEO’s of this world are likely to remain unavailable to you even if you are the nicest guy around. But believe me or not, the title or the fame are bad indicators of how interesting other people can bet you. I’ve met founders of small firms that had a compiling vision of the future, experienced entrepreneurs who had a vision and some of them will remained among the most fascinating people I’ve ever met (see for instance my post on the architect Enric Ruiz Geli and this one on my meeting with Jean-Luc Colonna d’Istria of the Merci concept store).
Once you have your shortlist, just be humble and ask. People feel usually flattered to attract others’ interest and in most cases they will respond positively.
Those three recipes are wonderful tool if used regularly. Not only will you make great experiences, for the latter will also serve you to enhance your marketing strategy, innovate and better analyze your market. You just need discipline to apply them.Tags: market research belgium, marketing strategy