They have managed to reinvent themselves at the right time, by creating a demand or finding the solution to a problem: innovative companies often owe their success to iconic personalities. But also to grey eminences. And some of the great creative entrepreneurs have preserved their freedom to create thanks to their independent status. Most of them owe their success to one or more character traits in particular. And the path to their success has also often been marked by failures and backlashes.
1. The reasons for their success
An entrepreneur's creativity often starts from a personal passion. Alexander Graham Bell had a particular interest for sound and for the human voice. It influenced his later inventions, most notably the telephone. More recently, the Swedish serial entrepreneur Daniel Ek enjoyed entrepreneurial success at a very young age, but despite that he fell into a void and developed depression. To get through this, he went back to his first passion, music, and had the idea of creating a music platform where all the songs would be accessible without a download. Spotify was born.
When passion is accompanied by a conviction, which lasts in the long-term vision, success is also about patience. Snapchat boss Evan Spiegel turned down Facebook's $3 billion takeover offer in 2013, saying its development potential exceeded by far Facebook's proposed valuation.
To be creative is also to know how to turn a threat into an opportunity. HackerOne is a company that connects businesses and government agencies with a network of hackers who test systems. While traditional cybersecurity efforts are centered around building hacker-proof software, CEO Mickos says vulnerabilities are inevitable: "It's better to know than not to know."
Facilitating an activity is another creative way to succeed. Google and its brilliant co-founders, engineers Larry Page and Sergey Brin, developed an algorithm that has revolutionized Internet search.
Diversifying: In a very competitive food industry with an enormous pressure on prices, the French group Danone had the idea to move towards higher-margin products like soy (they acquired Alpro in 2016), nutraceuticals and dietary supplements.
Many companies owe their success to their ability to anticipate new consumer trends. Cadbury had the idea of incorporating organic and fair trade products into their ranges.
Combining experience and ease: the American restaurant chain Sweetgreen understood this well. Sweetgreen is a restaurant chain (serving mainly salads and healthy food) that reasons like a tech company. It focuses both on taste and transactional efficiency (more than 50% of their orders come in through the company’s mobile app) and offers delivery services, too.
In 2016, Sweetgreen unveiled an image-driven ordering app that lets users both customize orders and count calories. The display features 60 different ingredients and is compatible with the Apple Health app.
Sweetgreen attracted $135 million in venture capital from investors. All the while, the restaurant chain is continuously looking into new, fast-casual restaurant concepts and corporate delivery opportunities, with the ambition to offer more flavorful recipes even faster.
2. Building a culture of creativity in the company
Brilliant bosses or solitary inventors who simply have executors surrounding them are rare. The creative talent of an entrepreneur or a manager, even a temporary one, encompasses creating a professional environment which is open to the emergence of new ideas: establishing creative groups, allowing staff to devote a fixed part of their working time to imagining new ideas, promoting change, reinventing meetings and focusing on the particular talents of each member of the workforce, are key elements which will contribute to the raise of innovative products, concepts and services.
Introducing creativity into corporate culture means creating a fun workspace like Zappos does.
Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos, has developed a concept that seems quite surprising in the face of rather traditionalist conceptions of management: the company of happiness. According to the entrepreneur, his company's sole mission is to deliver happiness to employees.
Zappos is one of the first big companies with an open floor plan and no corner offices. Managers become “lead links” who have very little formal authority over other employees, and everyone in the company is empowered to make decisions. “People will put their heart and soul into something for less payoff and less money when they feel like they’re the owners of it.”
Twitter succeeded in creating a team-oriented environment where each person is motivated by corporate goals, open-air meetings and yoga classes.
At Adobe, the manager is the coach. He lets his employees set goals and determine how they should be evaluated. He chooses continuous training that promotes autonomy and risk-taking without penalties.
Proximus is a company with a vibrant IT department where all trends and news regarding telecom, ICT, cloud solutions and related technologies are closely monitored.
However, a suitable climate available is not enough to bring in innovation. Creativity is a real entrepreneurial strategy that requires a clear path:
- Define goals and explain why creativity is one of them: for the well-being of the employees, to increase competitiveness, to adequately respond to the company’s sense of social and entrepreneurial responsibility, etc.
- Declare: As a company, make your creativity stand out.
- Inspire: Define a strategy of creativity and inspire everyone to integrate that strategy.
- Reward: Create a climate of trust and gratitude and do not punish when mistakes are made.
Are you ready? It’s up to you now!