Creativity in startups comes from people and process

At Forward Partners we have been thinking a lot recently about the qualities that we like to see in our people – our values if you like. One of those is to be “creative, adventurous and open-minded” and as we flesh out what that means we’ve been musing on how creativity works within our portfolio companies. We back great entrepreneurs with great ideas, so we’re not focused on the original eureka moment, but rather the way they find creative solutions to challenges as they arrive.

In western society we have this myth that creativity comes from lone geniuses, but in reality it’s hard being creative on your own. Some people are better than others, but most clever ideas these days come at the nexus of existing concepts and the genius is in bringing them together rather than dreaming up something out of nothing.

When creative solutions are required to solve day to day problems that arrive in startups (do I know what my customers want?, where can I find my first 50 customers?, why aren’t my leads converting?, what should my brand be? etc.) the best solutions come when the following elements are present:

  • A framework that helps us understand the problem
  • People who can bring insight from solving similar problems elsewhere
  • A process for teasing out solutions

And, of course some smart people.


  • dwanguard

    As in many things in life creativity comes in a wide ranges.

    Forcing it, can be done but with very limited effect. This is why large groups actually dissipate genuine creativity.

    Complexity sometimes demand team work, but this is cooperation, segmental contribution to the problem.

    Successful leading of creative team is directing talent to contribute with their unique abilities.

  • Interesting comment. Thanks for the links. I guess creativity comes in many forms and we should cultivate all of them. Some problems will be more suited to group solving whilst others to solo-thinking. It must depend on the nature of the problem.

  • dwanguard

    Exactly, worst thing I can think of that can be done when creative solution is needed is generalising.

    Elon Musk in Wired interview put it like this: “The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You’re encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine.”
    10/2012 ( )