How to be more creative? Pay attention.

In Joseph Gordon Levitt’s TED talk on How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative,  he argues that if your sense of creativity is driven by a desire to get attention, you’re never going to be creatively fulfilled.

This can be especially challenging if you’re an entrepreneur and social media visibility is part of your e-commerce strategy. You have to constantly compete for people’s attention. Then, you have to keep them engaged and make yourself available to their comments and queries. And that can be exhausting. In fact, entrepreneurs are actively trying to find ways to combat social media fatigue

Now, social media isn’t inherently bad for creativity. Some creatives express how social media can debilitate their process. But others also highlight how social media engagement can actually broaden your mind by exposing you to new ideas and connection. So, clearly, it’s not an either-or-situation when it comes to harnessing creativity in today’s digital economy. 

In order to harness creativity, Levitt proposes two related steps: pay attention and collaborate.

Pay attention to the things that matter. 

In an environment where attention is sacred and becoming scarce, the best thing for us to do is to use it consciously. That is, we need to pay attention. Of course, paying attentions means different things for different people. But, generally, it requires practice, purpose, and a coherent set of objectives.

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get lost in the horizon of opportunities. Which only makes it all the more important not to lose sight of your objectives. 

Ladder up.

Christie Lee, the CEO of Nourishing Food Marketing, often advises her clients to make sure their marketing tactics meet align with their business objectives

“Everything has to ladder up,” Lee says.

Trying to gain people’s attention without knowing how impacts your bottom line can lead to costly situations. Lee believes that businesses should be more purposeful and focused with their marketing objectives. 

“A lot of founders will say, “I got this email for this radio show that I can do advertising on.” And I’m like, “Hold on, let’s not look at that opportunity individually.” We should say, instead, “Does this do a better job than something I’m currently spending my money on in order to achieve my objectives?”

A focused attitude can shape how entrepreneurs carry their brand in every aspect of their business. 

Remain grounded.

Rana Lustyan, the CEO of Edoughble, packages her ready-to-eat cooked dough in set packs because she understands that her product is a giftable novelty. 

“It’s a premium product,” Lustyan explains, “It’s not just a regular grocery item. Whether you’re gifting it to somebody or you’re buying it for yourself, it’s like a treat. So, it’s important to keep it nicely packaged.”

Lustyan and her team are constantly testing different channels and marketing strategies. She says there’s no science to it, but that doesn’t mean there’s not strategy either

“Spend the time to create your strategy and understand your costs and margin,” Lustyan says.

Like Lee, she believes that it’s important not to get in the noise and remain grounded in finding the strategies that suit your objectives best.

“Don’t just assume that when you hit high volume, that the business will take care of itself and figure it all out. It takes a really long time and it costs a lot of money to really get there,” reminds Lustyan.

“So, identify how you’re going to reach your customers and have that planned, and have it tested on a small scale to try to find what works and what doesn’t work before you really commit.”

In an increasingly crowded digital marketplace, it’s important to understand where you’re coming from to know where you’re headed. Paying close attention to details and being mindful of your business objectives gives purpose and direction to your creative solutions.

Seek out collaborators instead of competitors.

The Internet’s continued growth into a space for doing business is reshaping the way we interact on it. As different platforms grow crowded with content for different purposes, so does the competition for attention and engagement. As an entrepreneur, if you go into this kind of environment with only the intent to outdo your competitors, then you’re going to miss out on a lot of opportunities. 

Levitt says the opportunity online lies not in competition, but in collaboration. 

Remote work has made it possible for many companies to reimagine the way they work and who they work with. The borderlessness allows emerging brands to benefit from the diversity and creativity that comes with broadening the workplace. 

Collaborate strategically.

David Czinn, the CEO and Co-Founder of emerging sweetener brand D’Vash Organics, built an Ambassador Program for their dates syrup. Often companies are tempted to build awareness for their brand by reaching out to people with the largest number of followers. But Czinn wanted to work with people who would be genuinely interested in the product. So, he reached out to chefs and bartenders. 

“It gave us the opportunity to really communicate with people who were into products like ours, who had access to our markets and who were genuinely happy to receive the products to try,” recounts Czinn. “They were excited to be offered something new and excited that it was healthy and it tasted good. That was a really incredible discovery for us.”

Aside from their collaborators speaking favorably on behalf of the brand, D’Vash Organics also benefited from working with people who create beautiful and engaging content. 

“For any business, I think it’s important to work with people who align properly with your brand. For D’Vash Organics, we look for role model partners,” Czinn explains, “Creativity is number one, engagement is number two, and number three is whether or not they share our vision and values as a company.”

The Internet provides a plethora of opportunities not just to get ahead, but also to collaborate. Entrepreneurs know the power of community and the importance of relationships in building a brand. Collaboration brings creativity and diversity of thought that can sharpen the focus on the message that businesses want to get across. 

Paying attention enables you to make the right changes.

Some people might think that staying focused on your goals means uncompromisng on the strategies to achieve them. But that’s not true. Paying attention opens up your mind to the different ways and paths to get to where you want to be. It helps you prioritize decisions and strategies. At the same time, choosing to collaborate rather than compete enjoins new minds to enhance your process and appreciate your purpose. Building a community reinforces the value of your goals.

As competition for attention on the Internet grows, position yourself as an entrepreneur who collaborates and never loses sight of the big picture.