Creative types are all alike. That may be a sweeping generalization, but there are undoubtedly some specific traits that distinguish creatives from the general population.

In Fast Company’s annual celebration of business innovators who dare to think differently, they name 2012’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. The individuals they dubbed “most creative” represent a cross-section of industries and professions. The two common characteristics of these creative peope is “taking risks and discovering surprising new solutions to old problems.”

Despite their diverse backgrounds, there are 5 key traits that professional photographers can learn from FastCompany’s “100 Most Creative People.”

1. Harness Unbridled Optimism

Creatives are the ones who chime in during contentious corporate meetings with exclamations like, “We can solve this!” In fact, their Quixotic attitude is why Steve Jobs annointed them “the crazy ones.” They sincerely – often vehemently – believe that even the most mind-boggling problems have a solution. And they’re the ones who lead teams toward unconventional solutions to daunting problems like pollution.

Poetically, one of this year’s 100 Most Creative People in Business is an environmental researcher who led a fearless crusade to confront Apple and demanded they take responsibility for health problems caused by heavy-metal pollution in factories manufacturing their equipment. After being relentlessly implored to address egregious health threats, Apple finally acquiesced to increased oversight of its suppliers, culminating in its 2012 supplier-responsibility progress report, which named more than 100 suppliers and cited environmental audits into 14 of them. If you look up “Quixotic” in the dictionary, Ma Jun should be there.

2. Be Willing to Embrace New Tools

New tools and new technologies are the lifeblood of creative people. Instead of viewing new developments as threats, creatives tend to be early-adopters. In fact, they’re the first to try trailblazing tools and come up wih innovative ways to use them! Take traditional teaching, for example. Classrooms are nothing new; online training is nothing new. Yet a guy name Michael who once upon a time couldn’t afford to attend TED decided that a hybrid of two teaching venues would actually yield the best results for both teachers and students. In 2010, he started Skillshare. In 2012, he was selected as a TED Fellow.

3. Be a Pragmatist, not a Prima Donna

Creative conceit is outdated and out-of-fashion in the 21st century. Sure, creatives are called “elitist” or “vain.” Maybe they are when it comes to their personal preferences. Yet creative innovators understand how to marry mass-market demands with delightful design. Creating something beautiful with integrity doesn’t have to be an art reserved for prima donnas. As Madewell’s head designer knows, “we can add the frills, but it has to be grounded in function.”

4. Time Away Isn’t Time Wasted

When Sarah Robb O’Hagan stepped into her CEO running shoes at flagging sports drink giant Gatorade, its brand message had been diluted to something along the lines of, “hydration is good, and something or other about electrolytes.” Gatorade’s sales flatlined in 2007, then dove dramatically downward in the 52 weeks before she took the job. That’s precisely when Robb O’Hagan stepped in and then only weeks later, promptly went on maternity leave. It’s easy to forget that rest is vital to inspiration and innovation. The time Gatorade’s Robb O’Hagan spent on maternity leave is what catalyzed company-wide change. This story is a reminder to hold yourself accountable for taking time to rest, think and learn, just as you hold yourself accountable for putting ideas that emerge from that time into action.

5. Create Content, Create Content, Create Content

“RTing is the lazy man’s tweet,” declares Claire Diaz Ortiz. Think about it: you’re a photographer, you create content. Don’t get lazy on your shoots and don’t get lazy online in conversations. Creative profesionals know how to create compelling content and they do it consistently. Go ahead, give yourself a content challenge. How many days can you create kick-ass content that drives conversations to where you host them: your blog or your website? The more you can invite your ideal audience to your table, the more memorable you’ll be when it’s time to hire a photographer!

To dig deeper into the traits of creatives check out this article.

About Rachel LaCour Niesen

Rachel is a co-founder of MatchStick Strategies, a content marketing consulting agency that helps companies create and carry out content marketing strategies that reach big-picture business goals. Find more musings from Rachel on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.

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