A group of researchers looked at how the creative process works in artists and then compared this with the methods used by serial entrepreneurs. They found various common points in the way their creativity is expressed.

Creative Process Works the Same Way for Entrepreneurs as for Artists


To be an entrepreneur you need to have a fair dose of creativity. At the very least you have to be able to come up with an idea and then turn it into something real. According to a team of Swiss ethnologists whom L'Atelier met at the Lift conference in Geneva on 6-8 February – a conference which explored the business and social implications of technological innovation –this creativity and the paths it takes appear very similar to the creativity which one finds in a painter for example. The study they carried out involved tracking five artists and eight entrepreneurs for several days. The researchers discovered a number of identical patterns in the creative processes of the two groups. These are the essential steps by which each person arrives at his/her objectives, whether we’re talking about a business deal or a work of art. The Swiss researchers identified four main elements in the process: an echo chamber, staying power, the workspace, and the trigger mechanism.

You have to work at being creative

The first component is what the researchers call an ‘echo chamber’. This basically means that artists or entrepreneurs tend to build around themselves an environment which enables them to be receptive to ideas and to re-use them. Secondly, staying power – i.e. a person’s capacity to work on something over a long period and also includes the tools or processes s/he puts in place in order to do so. This might be something as simple as always having a notebook to hand. Third, the idea of a workspace is linked to the regimen or rituals which these people follow in order to help them work. Traumatic emotions such as stress and fear have a negative impact on creativity in both artists and entrepreneurs, and creating precise rituals – going alone into the mountains or listening to music, for example – can help to overcome these negative feelings. Finally, the trigger, which is of course dependent on the other three aspects working properly. “People miss incredible opportunities while travelling on public transport,” pointed out one of the entrepreneurs whom the researchers were following for their study. His smooth ability to talk to people enabled him to close deals during a discussion on a bus or train.

Observing the creative process

The method of analysis the researchers used, simply placing themselves in the role of observer, meant that they could “tap into the creative process by watching what was actually happening,” explained Valerie Bauwens, one of the ethnologists. “This allowed us to compare the various processes directly.” In addition, the researchers note that the majority of the entrepreneurs they tracked stated that they came from a family of entrepreneurs, where strategy and marketing topics would be discussed at the dinner table. This suggests that personal creativity may not be purely innate but can be nurtured by the social surroundings in which a person is brought up. Several other studies have already been carried out on entrepreneurs, such as that of Dr Ian Fillis and Professor Ruth Rentschler of the Universities of Stirling Scotland and Deakin, Australia, and that of Professor David Galenson of the University of Chicago