Steal your business ideas like an artist

I really loved “Steal like an artist” by Austin Kleon, and I started incorporating some of the recommendations in my daily routine.

This book is initially intended to artists and describes how and why we take inspiration from different sources, different heroes. It’s a beautiful book and a really inspiring one.

https://books.google.ca/books?id=NVZuUSJtpcQC&redir_esc=y

Austin Kleon describes in his book, among several examples and citations of artists that took inspiration from others, the 10 principles that’ll help artists unlock their creativity. We can easily apply these principles to a lot of sectors of activity, including entrepreneurship.

The 10 principles are as follows:

1. Steal like an artist

This first principle is describing the concept of creativity in a new way. You create not from a vacuum but from all your experiences, past and current influences.

It’s exactly the same for business ideas. We often describe new business ideas by comparing it to other (and usually successful) businesses. And to find new ideas we need to push this concept one step further, and really take inspiration from the different businesses ideas we see around us to create our own. It’s by getting a lot of information on a particular field that we can have business ideas on this field and start developing our own venture.

2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started

We can’t have all the information required and all the experience needed to start a business. We are helping businesses since 2009; we have seen a lot of different entrepreneurs and what is fascinating about them is this : they build their business while not being prepared and by learning along the way.

First develop an idea, then simply do it !

3. Write the book you want to read

This principle can be translated by : provide the service or the product you’ll like to receive. For instance we insist a lot on customer service in our own business, because I want to receive great service when I’m the customer of your services.

4. Use your hands

To develop an idea, a business model or simply a new service you want to add to your offer, I find it so much easier to use paper and pen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a geek all the way and I love all the tools technology is providing. I take notes only on Google Keep for instance because it’s so much easier when you are looking for information later on. But at the same time, I need to take notes regularly in my Moleskine notebook or to draft my business services on the Business Canvas.

Most of the time I’ll never reuse these notes or even reread them (maybe I should, though); the simple fact to put the ideas on paper helps me organize my thoughts and push them further. I still don’t know a better method than mapping my ideas on post-its  and arranging (and re-arranging) them on the wall to prepare my presentations.

5. Side projects and hobbies are important

Side projects come naturally; they are the “other” activities that seem to distract us from our main goal. But here is the trick : that’s the side projects that bring us closer to our goal. It’s counter intuitive but we need these “distractions” to remain creative and to make our main project evolve and adapt.

This can be a new business project, an activity that we do for pure pleasure or a chunk of “non productive” time. Taking a bixi instead of the car or a cab for instance can allow us to see things differently and to come back to our project with renewed energy and focus.

I used to go sit on a bench in the Botanical Garden of Montreal and stay there for an hour or so, either writing on one of my notebooks, or more often than not, just enjoying the scenery. This was a really fun and creative experience.

And one more reason to consider side projects : sometimes they will grow big and fast and take over as your main project.

6. The secret : do good work and share it with people

The concept of sharing seems so foreign to a lot of business people and entrepreneurs. I’m convinced that by sharing your ideas (new business, marketing ideas, new service, new product …) you make them better. In this principle, Austin Kleon is focusing on the recognition an artist can get (and how to get it), but I’m sure we can extrapolate this principle to entrepreneurs.

To be able to push your project and to make it a success you need (among other things) a strong network that will support you, a lot of feedback, and also confront your idea to the harsh reality of life. Do not be afraid to share and promote your work and your ideas. This also can be translated by : build it, ship it and improve the next iteration based on the feedback you just received.

7. Geography is no longer our master

This principle is, in its conclusions, similar to the previous one. You are maybe not located in the best place to make your business grow. Launch it anyway; you’ll always find ways to compensate the not-so-perfect location.

8. Be nice. (the world is a small town)

We are strongly influenced by the people that we have around us. By surrounding yourself of good, or even better, great people, you increase your chances of success in your project. And the best way to do so is by being nice and helpful to a lot of these great people. Follow your heroes, imitate them, be nice, be helpful.

9. Be boring. (it’s the only way to get the work done)

There is only one way to get things done : be organized, methodical and do it !

The idea in a business represents less than 10% of the success the business may experience. All the rest is composed of hard work, organization, administration, good accounting practices, rational decision making, careful customer relationship management, and just a touch of luck. If you are not organized and methodical, find someone to help you get through the more boring part of the job.

10. Creativity is subtraction

We find our best ideas when the constraints are minimizing our options. We get really creative when the resources are scarce. It’s a question of survival, we can see that in art, in business as in civilisation. When the resources are too easily available, the civilisation has a tendency to remain immobile, to not evolve anymore. Abundance destroys creativity.

Do not wait to have all the right cards in your hand to start playing. Launch your project now, and bootstrap it if needed; it’s the best way to create something new, original and truly life changing.

Additional inspiring principle

One of the tips that Austin Kleon is giving in his book, is to use a logbook. A little bit as in a captain logbook on a boat, or in the Captain’s log in Star Trek, the logbook intention is to track the main events in your day. It can also be used to track only the good events in your day, forcing your mind to focus on what went well, what made you smile, what made you happy. If only that, the logbook will help reduce some of the stress and direct your energies to what makes you smile 🙂

About Cyril Arnaud

With an engineering degree and a MSc in thermal engineering, I worked for more than ten years in the aerospace industry, as an engineer, a project manager and now a consultant.

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