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‘Always Be My Maybe’ Director and ‘Fresh off the Boat’ Creator Nahnatchka Khan On Creativity and Getting the Details Right

‘Always Be My Maybe’ Director and ‘Fresh off the Boat’ Creator Nahnatchka Khan On Creativity and Getting the Details Right

'Always Be My Maybe' Director and 'Fresh off the Boat' Creator Nahnatchka Khan On Creativity and Getting the Details Right

Nina Zipkin Entrepreneur Staff Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture. June 20, 2019 6 min read

It can be scary to put an idea — that one that you poured your heart and soul into — out into the world. But the feeling is hardly unique; it’s one creative, innovative people have to deal with all the time.

Nahnatchka Khan is one of those innovators. She’s the director of the new Netflix hit Always Be My Maybe, about two ex-childhood sweethearts who reconnect as adults even though they come from very different worlds. The film is an independent project written by its co-stars Randall Park and Ali Wong; and it features a nearly all Asian-American cast. Upon its release in late May, the movie resonated widely, especially for the community it wanted to reflect and celebrateADVERTISING

“When I saw Always Be My Maybe, I recognized parts of myself in the strong and ambitious Sasha, played by Ali Wong, who sought a supportive partner, not a savior,” commented Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociologist, pop culture expert and critic who wrote Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism. “I reveled in watching [Sasha] choose between three uniquely attractive Asian American men of my generation. With so few images of ourselves, Asian Americans are hungry for the validation of everyday Asian American love depicted in Always Be My Maybe.”

Finding collaborators who really see you 

Khan, who was born in Las Vegas and raised in Hawaii with her brother by parents who immigrated to the US from Iran, has been working as a television writer and producer since 1997. In 2012, she created the cult favorite Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, and for the last five years, she’s been the showrunner for ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, which hit 100 episodes this spring.

“Just keep going,” Khan said to Entrepreneur of her philosophy. “Find like-minded people who are on the same page as you and then lift each other up. I personally feel like the end product is always better when you can make a collective. It’s like a band. You can have a bunch of individual great musicians, but when you come together, there’s a sound that it creates that you couldn’t do on your own.”

And if all else fails, Khan said, think about the details and make sure that no matter what, you’re putting out the best product you possibly can. “I thank God for the details, because they give you something to focus on, because I can control that stuff and are all within my power to change,” Khan said, of the anticipation of the film’s release. “But I knew I was proud of the movie. I knew everyone who made it was proud of it. And you just hope audiences will feel the same way and the response will be what you wanted it to be. And people will relate to and laugh and care about these characters.”

Lead by allowing your people to be amazing. 

Always Be My Maybe was Khan’s feature directorial debut. She said that the experience of running a TV series and directing a film have some overlap. But while some demands are different, the through-line for both is hiring great people and then letting them do what they are great at.

“In terms of leadership, you’ve got to allow for people to be amazing and to contribute in a way that’s meaningful,” Khan said. “You can’t hold on so tight that people don’t get a chance to do what they do best. But at the same time, it is your final say on a lot of these issues. Not everyone is going to agree with you on everything. And you have to make decisions and you just have to choose at a certain point. But I’m happy in that role.”

The experience of making Always Be My Maybe was a project among friends, she said. Co-stars Park and Wong, who co-wrote the movie with Michael Golamco, had also been attached to Fresh Off the Boat — Park as the Huang family patriarch, and stand-up comedian Wong as a writer for several seasons.

That’s true collaboration, Khan pointed out, and, in her view, there’s one vital component to all successful creative collaborations: trust.

When there is trust, anything is possible 

“In comedy it’s so subjective; there is no right or wrong,” she said. “You have to have that shared sensibility. You have to trust the people that you’re working with and collaborating with and have that same kind of template and bar as to what you think it’s funny. Once you do that, once you trust each other, you can try anything because you feel secure, you feel safe.”

The film premiered on May 29 to critical acclaim and trended on social media, with audiences talking both about the chemistry between long-time friends Park and Wong, and the joy and importance of representation both on-screen and behind the camera.

“I’m so thrilled about the response,” Khan noted. “We had such a great time making this movie. It was so much fun; it was a labor of love. We all were on the same page with Netflix and with Good Universe, our producers, from the beginning. We were all making the same movie; and then to have that movie come out and just to see this response has been really overwhelming and so satisfying.”

5 Characteristics of a Culture That Develops and Executes Breakthrough Ideas

5 Characteristics of a Culture That Develops and Executes Breakthrough Ideas

5 Characteristics of a Culture That Develops and Executes Breakthrough Ideas

Sonia Thompson Guest Writer Marketing Strategist, Consultant, Author February 6, 2018 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Peter Drucker, the father of modern-day business management, noted that a business has only two functions: marketing and innovation.

Companies that have wholeheartedly embraced innovation — Amazon, Apple and Tesla among them — garner admiration, sales and additional marketing in the form of earned media.ADVERTISING

And while businesses of all sizes know innovation is an important lever that will fuel their long-term success, many struggle to do it effectively. They get stuck in a rut of doing “what we’ve always done.” Others hop on the latest trends when they are forced to do so, rather than becoming pioneers in the space. No bueno.

Jeff Bezos credits a major part of Amazon’s massive success over the years to its people’s willingness to innovate. In his 2015 letter to shareholders, he explained the source of the $100 billion dollar company’s ability to innovate: “One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure,” he wrote. “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”

If you want a business where innovation is the norm, you’ve got to create the right environment — one that’s conducive to change and diversity of experience as well as opinion. No matter your history, you can build a company that delights your customers with your products, services and experiences on a consistent basis. Here’s how.

1. Create a culture of experimentation.

Articles, books, and other resources give the same account: Failure is a precursor to success. When you accept failure as a part of the learning process that helps you achieve your goals, you get more comfortable with this concept.

The key to making failure work for you is conducting experiments that are small enough you won’t be left shirtless if things go south. Creating a company culture that experiments on a regular basis thrives only when you’ve also developed a consistent feedback loop. This crucial communication tool ensures you’ll have the clues needed to iterate and produce something remarkable. 

2. Make idea generation a habit.

Innovation begins with an idea. And to exponentially increase the odds of producing a winning idea for your business, quantity trumps quality. Of course, not every idea will be a great one. But a large arsenal of thoughts from which to choose makes it easier to refine your understanding of what your customers want from you. 

Whenever I write a new article, I generate 25 potential headlines. Pushing myself to generate more ideas forces me to think beyond the obvious and stretch my mind to come up with more creative options. 

Work to make idea generation a habit in your business. Encourage team members to bring forth their own suggestions, and create a system to catalog what is presented.

3. Diversify your experiences.

When it comes to innovation, realize that homogeneity is a liability. Steve Jobs knew this to be true. It’s why he encouraged others to branch out to take the road less traveled. “If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does,” Jobs said in 1982, as he accepted the “Golden Plate” award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. He was 26.

Make it a point to step outside your comfort zone. Accumulate new experiences for yourself both professionally and personally. As you look to build a rockstar team, be intentional about seeking talent that brings to the table diverse backgrounds, experiences and ways of thinking.

The observations, skills and expanded frame of reference you obtain as a result will prevent you from being satisfied with the status quo.

4. Encourage dissent.

Want to improve the quality of your ideas? Encourage others to tear them down. A capable team of people whose opinions you value will generate constructive criticism to help make your idea better. You’ll produce a much better product or offering than you ever could have done alone. 

Research backs up this principle. Data from UC Berkeley demonstrates that conflict improves the ideation process. A team whose members cosign everything you say can’t help you or your company become more innovative.

Consider setting up regular team meetings to solicit input on how to take an idea from good to great. Create an environment that assures team members their opinions are valued and welcomed. Once you do, they’ll feel comfortable enough to be more vocal about using their expertise to raise the quality standard for whatever your business delivers.

5. Obsess over your customers.

Your business exists to serve your customers. The more value you provide, the more they will reward you with their loyalty. When you focus your efforts on knowing your customers intimately, you’ll gain a tremendous amount of insight into how to solve their problems like none other.

Talk to your customers every chance you get. Take the opportunity to walk a mile in their shoes so you can develop a deeper empathy for their issues. Seek out pain points at every step of their customer journey and brainstorm ways to improve the experience for them.

5 Ways to Unlock Your Entrepreneurial Creativity

5 Ways to Unlock Your Entrepreneurial Creativity

5 Ways to Unlock Your Entrepreneurial Creativity

John Boitnott VIP Contributor Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor April 16, 2019 5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Creativity is perhaps the most important attribute for successful entrepreneurs to possess and cultivate. After all, creativity powers innovation, establishes new perspectives and solutions to old problems, and empowers business leaders to craft a bold vision for their companies and pursue it vigilantly.

The funny thing about creativity is that the more you use it, the more you have. It’s not a finite resource that you run out of. Rather, it’s more like a muscle you need to exercise. And when you work that muscle regularly, it becomes stronger and more productive. Creativity is all about forming new, unique and useful connections, and the more you use, the more you have.

Yet it’s all too easy to slide into a creativity swamp of sorts, stagnant and sluggish. Creative power, as with any kind of intelligence or energy, will ebb and flow over time. When your creativity has apparently packed up and left on vacation, try the following exercises and approaches to light the fires and bring creative thinking back to your work.

1. Think analog.

Our modern devices can keep us entertained and diverted for hours. That sounds great until you realize that the very act of willingly handing over our undivided attention to those focus-pulling activities hampers creative thinking. Research shows that when we let ourselves engage in rote, routine tasks that require little executive function, the result is that our minds are free to wander and we end up increasing our creative thought processes.

Whenever you can, therefore, it’s a great idea to unplug from the electronics and go analog. Engage in household chores in a mindful manner. For example, doing dishes by hand, ironing, or anything that requires repetitive movements and little intellectual analysis can free your mind to take those flights of fancy that result in heightened creativity.

2. Use your hands.

Creative thinking takes place primarily in the brain. When you practice a skill that requires intense hand-eye coordination, it seems to help your neurological network stretch and re-energize.

Take up a visual art form, even if you think you’re terrible at it. Painting with watercolors, sketching, sculpting, pottery, knitting, even doodling — anything that uses your hands helps you create new neural connections and triggers more creative leaps will help you regain your own powers of innovation.

3. Appreciate creativity in others.

Fill the creative well by taking in other people’s creative works. Julia Cameron, the well-known creativity expert and author of The Artist’s Way, suggests doing this weekly and calls it the “Artist’s Date.” Go see a movie at an indie arthouse cinema you’d otherwise never see. Take in an exhibit at a museum you’ve never been to. Read a novel if you usually read nonfiction business titles (or vice-versa). Take a sketchbook and pencils to a park and draw what you see.

Another way to put this tip into practice is to make a point to look for other people’s creative decision-making skills. The way someone handles a problematic coworker in the office, for example, or a new business partnership announcement in your local newspaper that you’d never have predicted can give you lots of creative food for thought.

4. Meditate regularly.

Whether you practice formal meditation or simply routinely carve out “executive time” for yourself to brainstorm, think and dream, it’s important for busy entrepreneurs to power down on a consistent basis if you want to keep your powers of creativity in optimal form.

However, it’s also crucial to note that not every type of meditation is necessarily equal when it comes to stoking creative fires. Studies suggest that “open-monitoring” meditation, where you simply sit quietly and observe without judging whatever is going on around and within you, is far more effective in triggering creative thinking.

5. Keep a notebook to increase creativity.

From Leonardo da Vinci to Joan Didion, creative geniuses throughout the centuries have discovered a singular truth: Writing in a journal regularly helps settle your mind and sort through options and ideas for your business, from new service or product lines to outlining your long-term vision for your business.

Maintaining a notebook or journal helps you increase creativity in a few ways. First and foremost, it begins to cement the habit of collecting and preserving your creative ideas. Writing down all your thoughts and ideas can help you preserve them for further rumination and iterative work.

Additionally, keeping a notebook frees up mental space and energy for other tasks. Our short-term memory capacity is quite limited. Trying to retain your ideas in short-term memory isn’t effective. That type of memory is better suited for things like telephone numbers and dates, and only for as long as it takes us to write the information down.

Instead, buy a small pocket-size notebook and carry it with you everywhere. Jot down your ideas as soon as they occur to you. Then carve out time regularly to go through those ideas and give them some deeper creative thought. You’ll find yourself not only retaining your ideas longer but having more of them as well.

To Get Your Team Brainstorming Great Ideas, Start With Crazy

To Get Your Team Brainstorming Great Ideas, Start With Crazy

To Get Your Team Brainstorming Great Ideas, Start With Crazy

Shayla Callis Guest Writer Design and Innovation Leader at Farmers Insurance December 19, 2018 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Recycling is a very good thing — except when it comes to ideas. Given the speed of change that’s driving business today, your company may be heading for trouble if you’re recycling the same offerings over and over again. Yet, no matter how brilliant any owner or executive may be, there are only so many times you can go back to the same personal well for the next game-changing idea. One big challenge for many business leaders comes down to this: How do you foster consistent, critical and creative thinking throughout your enterprise?

As a design and innovation leader at Farmers Insurance, my job revolves around providing answers to that question. I know that to grab attention in a crowded marketplace, companies, whether large or small, need to deliver fresh products and services on a regular basis. They need new ideas, they need them consistently, and they usually need them right now. And to generate those ideas, I’ve found that brainstorming while embarking upon the design thinking process can be a highly effective way out of that “same old, same old” rut.

I know team members often sigh inwardly when design thinking and brainstorming get put on the schedule: “There goes that afternoon.” But, done the right way, design thinking lets you re-evaluate processes that your organization currently has in place and figure out how to do them better. Here’s what I mean by doing it the right way, with some practical tips for how to structure your brainstorming sessions.

1. Start with crazy.

People are often reluctant to engage in design thinking because it’s an unfamiliar and potentially risky activity. What if they say the wrong thing! So, the entire process should be presented with a wide-open acceptance of any and all ideas. You need to say explicitly that crazy options are welcome. Let your team know that you wouldn’t have initiated the brainstorm if you weren’t looking to do things differently. Any idea that might elsewhere be too wacky could here be essential. Even if it’s not viable on its own, that idea could help spark the company’s next great innovative product or process.

It’s often better if the company’s senior leadership doesn’t act as facilitator for the brainstorm. Consider tapping an external facilitator to provide skilled, neutral direction.

Try to find a creative space other than the usual workspace, if at all possible. Not only will this help minimize work distractions, but it will also provide a new perspective for the group.

Start with some fun and engaging icebreakers to loosen up the group members.

2. Add some structure and communicate the goal.

Although you want to encourage creativity, you won’t get great input if everyone just starts shouting out ideas. This gives too much weight to the group’s louder participants and stifles the contributions of quieter team members. Instead, consider opening with a clear, concrete “challenge statement” or statement of purpose. What specific problem are you trying to solve? Then describe the end user by putting yourself in his or her shoes. Who will the solution impact? What are their experiences? Do some empathy mapping by creating a persona for your end user(s). Post on a whiteboard or large pad the descriptors of what your personas are “Thinking,” “Seeing,” “Feeling” and “Doing” as they experience life or a specific topic. After understanding who you’re designing for, you’re ready to begin brainstorming!

Each person gets a stack of sticky notes on which to write as many ideas or potential solutions that solve for the challenge statement or problem at hand. Take roughly 10 to 12 minutes to do so. You want to encourage quantity over quality at this point, so limit any conversations that might prematurely define solutions.

When time’s up, have each person select their own two or three favorite ideas and explain them briefly to the group before adding the sticky notes, without names, to the whiteboard or wall. Review and discuss as a group to clarify and further expand on ideas.

The facilitator can either open a quick discussion, followed by a vote for the group’s favorite ideas, or can simply collect the notes for further development. The entire process should take no more than 30 to 45 minutes.

3. Get rid of your assumptions.

You may think you know what could come out of a specific brainstorming exercise. The beauty of the process, however, lies in the unanticipated connections your team can create when they’re given permission to come up with unfiltered ideas. But, don’t expect this to be a one-and-done process. Once you’ve created detailed, concrete options, start getting feedback by testing the solutions with users who could be impacted by the changes. It’s likely you will have to revise, get more feedback and revise again. This is a good thing! You’re working with your users. Creative solutions don’t usually arrive in a single blinding flash of insight but rather in a series of small steps. One idea spurs a new, related thought, which sparks another idea, and so on.

As you plan further brainstorms, make sure to continually mix up the participating members. The more diversity you create in terms of experience, tenure, jobs and personalities, the more likely you are to foster unexpected solutions and get better participation.

Make sure to take advantage of all the resources available online to enrich the iterative process, both before and after a brainstorming session. There are countless websites and organizations with useful materials and programs that can help you expand on the ideas developed in brainstorms.

It’s important to let each group know that their brainstorming work has been meaningful by communicating next steps and providing ongoing updates. Regardless of any final outcomes, you need to validate your team’s efforts if you hope to elicit useful insights. Keep in mind participants will want to know how their work during the session will be used to create meaningful change.

Remember, great ideas can come from anywhere. Fast-paced, diverse and iterative design thinking sessions can help you maximize the likelihood that your company continues to evolve at the speed of today’s changing marketplace.

This Filmmaker and Entrepreneur Wants to Transform Hollywood

This Filmmaker and Entrepreneur Wants to Transform Hollywood

This Filmmaker and Entrepreneur Wants to Transform Hollywood

Nina Zipkin Entrepreneur Staff Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture. June 6, 2019 7 min read

Producer-actor-director Miranda Bailey wants to be a force for good in the independent film community, helping stories that otherwise might not get told find their way on to the big screen.

Toward that goal, Bailey over the last 15 years has produced 20 films, including The Squid and the Whale, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Swiss Army Man and Don’t Think Twice. She is also the founder of three businesses.ADVERTISING

In 2012, she launched her film-distribution company The Film Arcade and two years later,started her production and financing company Cold Iron Pictures. In 2018, Bailey and Rebecca Odes co-founded the site CherryPicks, an aggregate movie review and rating site for and about female critics.

This year, 2019, has been a big one for Bailey. CherryPicks officially went live this spring with 200 critics contributing their work to the platform. And her feature directorial debut Being Frank, starring Jim Gaffigan and Anna Gunn, will arrive in theaters on June 14.

Bailey shared her insights about what is required to run a successful creative business, and how she thrives as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated film industry.

How did the idea for CherryPicks come about?

There was a film that I had produced that was written and directed and starring a woman. I think all reviews are helpful, positive or negative, but the way that men specifically spoke about this film, some of them were kind of condescending about what they felt that “the director should have done.” I had not read many reviews like that with men telling other men what they should have made.

I thought, I wonder what the women think? And, Is there a way I can see all the reviews from female critics? Because essentially, that was our target audience, female viewers. [But] I couldn’t find all the women critics! I thought there needed to be a site where I can go to see what women think about this movie, or this album or this video game. I need personally, as a consumer, to be able to go somewhere where I can read what other women think about media. It didn’t exist, so I started it.

I had heard so many complaints about women critics not getting paid on time or properly. So my editorial goal is, when we hire women to write articles, we pay them the second they send the invoice. We get it to them, and everyone gets paid the same. It’s word count you get paid on and not on status where you work or where your work has appeared. Everyone should be treated fairly if they’re writing for our site.

How did you get into producing films? Why did you want to start doing this work?
I am an actress and I studied writing and directing in New York at Skidmore College, and I came to L.A. to be an actress. And when I was acting, I had a very good time, but it wasn’t that often. And I had a couple of experiences on sets, kind of #MeToo experiences, that were very off-putting and disturbing, and it made me feel that I didn’t have control over my own art as an actor. And some of the stuff that I was doing, I would not make myself. So [I asked myself] Why am I being in it? I thought I should just make stuff that I would want to be in. Or least be proud if someone else was in it and didn’t get mistreated if there was a nude scene, let’s say.

I partnered with a friend of mine who was a director at the time, and we started something called Ambush Entertainment, and we made and financed some movies. Ultimately that partnership grew into me doing my own thing with Cold Iron Pictures, because I was being stalled a lot. I got a lot of pushback for stuff that was about women that I wanted to do. At some point you just feel like, Why am I waiting for someone else to greenlight this?

Film Arcade was started out of a need for filmmakers to have a place where they can be a legitimate partner in helping create the [movie] poster, and the trailer, and what cities [their film] plays in and what Q and A’s they do. We don’t have this thing that most distributors have where you essentially just have a machine. I wanted to create a place where I would be allowed to do that, and I imagined other people would like that. It’s not easy as a distributor to stay in business. I’ve watched so many start and fail. But there is no plan. There’s no one way to make a movie.

Since starting the first of these businesses in 2012, how have you seen the industry shift? What do you think is your impact?

I am so happy that right now I can actually get movies made and get movies distributed out there that 10 years ago pitching those or trying to get those made would be impossible because No. 1, “Where’s the guy lead? The white male lead?” And No. 2, there’s this belief that women-led movies don’t sell.

At this point I’m both a maker and a buyer. I’m selling movies to the exhibitors. and exhibitors are the ones saying “This is what the audience wants.” But what does the audience really want? The audience wants what they’re told is worth their money. And who is telling them what is worth their money? The critics. And 78 percent of critics are white men. Cherry Picks is  a way for me to somehow speed up the process of stories being told that are more inclusive. It’s an exciting time right now because I’m not the only person who feels that way.

What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs about to start something new?
So many of us, particularly women, are afraid to start something because we don’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to produce movies before I started producing movies. I had no idea how to start or run a distribution company until I did it. But you’ve got to jump in and do it anyway because there’s only one way to learn and that is to do it. And if we are constantly held back by thinking, “What if no one likes it?” or, “What if I don’t know what I’m doing?” then we’re not going to be putting enough stuff out there to share with the world.

It’s okay to be afraid. I am terrified right now. I have a movie coming out that I directed called Being Frank and I am scared thinking about people watching my movie. It’s totally fine to be afraid to put yourself out there and start a new company, start a new project. Make a movie. Make art. But if we let the fear stop us, then we’re shortchanging everyone else, not just ourselves.

‘Love Actually’ Director Richard Curtis: ‘To Make Things Happen, You Have to Make Things’

‘Love Actually’ Director Richard Curtis: ‘To Make Things Happen, You Have to Make Things’

'Love Actually' Director Richard Curtis: 'To Make Things Happen, You Have to Make Things'

Nina Zipkin Entrepreneur Staff Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture. May 23, 2019 4 min read

Richard Curtis, the writer and director of films including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually, is also the co-founder and vice chair of Comic Relief. He started the organization after visiting Ethiopia for a month during the 1985 famine and felt compelled to raise awareness about it.

Today, Comic Relief and its various campaigns, including annual television special Red Nose Day have raised more than $1 billion for projects in Africa and the United Kingdom aimed toward fighting poverty and providing access to physical and mental health services. While the goals of the organization are lofty and potentially daunting, Curtis said that as he’s gotten older, he has learned to appreciate the fact that grand projects aren’t tackled all at once, and that there is value in the process

“I’ve realized that in life, you dream you’re going to go up the whole staircase, but you end up climbing a stair,” he said. “With Red Nose Day, our aim is to end child poverty. You have to contrast the size of the task with the extraordinary amount that you can achieve with small things.”

He said the impact of those small things, whether it’s an individual donation that leads to life-saving vaccinations or a school working together to raise money for meals for families in need, keep him focused on his big goals.

Since 2015, a Red Nose Day special began airing on American television on NBC, 27 years after the first one premiered in the U.K. Today, Red Nose Day in the U.S. has raised over $150 million. Curtis said that when he started Comic Relief, he knew he wanted to help, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. So he started with what he knew.

“When you see how tough life can be, it does change your life. I just came back and tried to do something in my area of strength, which I suppose is my big recommendation on charitable things,” he said. “Go to where you’ve got a bit of power. I have a bit of power in that I knew most comedians in the U.K. We did a stage show and we did a TV telethon. The first year we raised 15 million pounds. After that it was very hard to say no, because that’s more money than I’ll earn in my whole life doing my own job. It was really just noticing what is going on and believing you can make a difference.”

As the organization has grown, Curtis said the biggest lesson he’s learned is that when you’re working to accomplish big things, you can’t limit your imagination. For Red Nose Day, the plan has always been to add something different to the organization’s roster of fundraising methods, whether it was selling red noses or releasing books, hit singles and documentaries or simply fundraising in communities or online.

“I have this motto, which is to make things happen, you have to make things,” he explained. “So it’s important to treat it like a proper imaginative enterprise rather than a sort of solid and serious charity thing.”

Curtis said that the common thread between Red Nose Day and his work telling stories is that both involve that step-by-step approach. He said that he finds there is a rhythm to his creative work. He describes his process as having a day of ideas, dreaming and putting post-it notes on the wall and then a second execution phase of battling through the practicality of making it all work.

“A proper writer writes for a day and sees that 2 percent of what they’ve done is good, and they are absolutely triumphant,” Curtis said. “An inexperienced writer writes 98 percent rubbish and thinks they’ve done badly. Whereas actually, it’s a success. I think the thing to do is to be exhilarated by what works rather than be demoralized by what doesn’t.”

The Red Nose Day Special airs on NBC Thursday, May 23, at 8 p.m. EST.

3 Ways to Unleash Your Creativity

3 Ways to Unleash Your Creativity

3 Ways to Unleash Your Creativity

Jason Fell Entrepreneur Staff Director of the Entrepreneur Partner Studio July 16, 2019 3 min read

Creating something from nothing isn’t simple. Inspiration, perspective, motivation, and the right tools are all critical elements to creativity. Having the exact right combination of all of these things, at the perfect time, isn’t always easy to come by.

Good news: There are strategies we can employ to give our creative sensibilities a jolt and ensure that we’re prepared to build whatever our hearts—or jobs—tell us we have to do.

Consider the following tips for unleashing your inner creative brilliance:

1. To spark creativity, get moving.

Sitting at your desk in front of a screen all day isn’t usually the most effective setting for dreaming up big, clever ideas. One of the best ways to get the creative juices flowing is to get up and get moving.

Studies have shown that stepping away from your work and going for a walk stimulates the neurological and physiological pathways that lead to creative thinking and problem solving. Turns out, it’s a simple strategy employed by many of the world’s top innovators, visionaries, and creators. Sometimes you need to take a break and clear your mind to make space for good ideas.

2. Seek out new experiences.

To one degree or another, we’re all creatures of habit. But if you’re stuck in the same routines doing the same things over and over, it leaves little room for thinking differently.

The more and varied our inputs (the places we go, people we speak with, media we engage with, etc.) the more our outputs (creativity) can evolve. In other words, go take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. Read books. Strike up a conversation with that neighbor or co-worker you’ve never spoken to before. If you have time, try learning a new language.

Studies have even suggested that playing video games can help people become more creative in their tasks and projects.

Inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources, so increasing your interactions will in turn increase your chances for coming up with something you’ve never imagined before.

3. When it’s time to work, mitigate distractions.

Most creatives strive for what’s called a flow state, known more commonly as “being in the zone.” It’s a period of intense thought and concentration when a creative is getting his or her work done—fully immersed in whatever project they’re working on.

To mitigate distractions while in the zone, start by turning off non-critical notifications on your phone and laptop. A constantly dinging phone doesn’t lend itself to getting highly creative work done. Try to find a quiet place away from similarly jarring sounds—avoid coffee shops, casual conversations, barking dogs, etc.

Then, do whatever sets you up for maximum creativity. Depending on the type of creative work you’re doing, researchers have said that some level of sound or noise can help boost creativity. When writing, for example, electronic or classical music can help hold you in that flow state. Music with lyrics, however, can prove to be distracting.

Ideas only have value when they’re acted upon. To realize your full potential, set yourself up for that creativ

5 Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Creativity

5 Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Creativity

5 Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Creativity

Hayden Field Entrepreneur Staff Associate Editor July 18, 2019 6 min read

How’s this for mad science: Within the next 15 years, people could elect to have their brains “zapped” to boost creativity in the workplace or classroom.

The process — based on functional MRI studies — is headed up by Adam Green, director of the Georgetown Laboratory for Relational Cognition and president-elect of the Society for the Neuroscience of Creativity. Green’s team looked at blood flow as a measure of brain cell activity when people were doing creative tasks. The process pointed them to one region of the brain in particular (the frontopolar cortex), so they decided to test whether stimulating the area could make creative thinking easier.ADVERTISING

“We zap people’s brains in a targeted way based on these fMRI studies,” Green says. The researchers hope to make creative neuroscience more available to the general public down the line.

If you don’t have a brain-stimulation tool and are looking to think outside the box, good news: We’ve got research-backed tips for upping your creativity outside the lab. Here’s how.

1. Exercise your creativity like a muscle.

One surefire way to boost creative thinking: Try. No, really! “Creativity isn’t made out of a magical fairy part of the brain,” Green says. “It’s essentially using all the same tools that go into doing everything else … but applying those tools in creativity-specific ways.”

Research shows that when people try to think more creatively, they almost always can — and those effects are both significant and repeatable. Green points to an “age-old adage” in neuroscience that “cells that fire together, wire together.” The idea is that the more you use your brain to do something, the stronger the connections between the cells involved become.

But the key to this is dedicating more time in your day to actively thinking, which usually means unplugging from email, social media and more. That’s the way to unlock “the digressive, slow, uncertain parts of ourselves that are key to our creativity,” said Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: Reclaiming Our Focus in a World of Lost Attention at The Atlantic’s “Humanity + Tech” conference at MIT on Sept. 5, 2018. 

Try implementing this idea in your everyday routine by avoiding bringing your phone to bed or to the bathroom. It’s also a good idea to turn off notification settings for social media apps and email. Consider dedicating specific time in your day to thinking creatively — and remind yourself to do so before any brainstorming session.

2. Change up your surroundings — even minimally.

“The best trick I know isn’t very sexy,” Green says. Data support that creativity “nudges” can come from changes as small as a warmer cup of coffee or different colors in the room. Try switching out some of the items on your desk, orienting yourself differently or doing an overhaul of the bulletin board you sit facing. Know that those “nudges” don’t only pertain to your physical surroundings — they’re also connected to your social setting.

Take advantage of opportunities to periodically work in different areas of the office, sit with new colleagues or invite people from different departments to lunch. Although you might not have much control over your work environment, making any possible adjustments could translate to a significant creativity boost.

“You want your physical and social surroundings to change,” says Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology.“If it’s the same old stuff on the walls and your desk — and the same people you’re talking to — that’s not necessarily good for creativity.”

3. Go out on a limb with what you learn.

When was the last time you learned something about medieval architecture? Ancient Egyptian history? Edible herbs in the wild? Now might be the time to take an in-person course or dive down an internet rabbit hole. Research suggests that broadening your knowledge by way of unfamiliar topics fosters new ideas and divergent thinking.

“New ideas come from interconnections among old ideas,” says Epstein, who uses an exercise called “the experts game” to demonstrate this. In it, a few people in a group with extensive knowledge of an obscure topic give five-minute lectures. Then, after learning about topics such as how shoes are constructed or the history of Rolex watches, everyone comes up with at least three ideas for new products or services.

“It is really mind-boggling what people will come up with, and that’s based on 15 minutes of instruction they just received,” Epstein says. You can DIY this approach by asking friends or colleagues in different industries about what they do — or signing up for a course on something completely unfamiliar to you via sites such as Khan Academy, Coursera or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).

There’s a good chance it won’t be immediately apparent how what you’re learning could be useful in the future, but the pieces of knowledge you’re collecting should come together naturally when you’re faced with a certain challenge or brainstorming ideas later on. “The more interesting and diverse the pieces, the more interesting the interconnections,” Epstein says.

4. Pay attention to — and record — new ideas that come to you.

As people age, the number of creative ideas that come to them doesn’t necessarily slow, but they tend to capture fewer of them. When an idea — or a small component of an idea — comes to you, start making it a point to preserve it. Jot it down in a smartphone note, write it in a pocket-sized notebook you carry around or sketch it on a napkin. “Capture now, evaluate later,” says Epstein, who says his research has shown over and over again that capturing your new ideas is likely the most valuable aspect of boosting creativity.

5. Challenge yourself in new ways — especially when it comes to overarching issues in your industry.

If you’ve ever tried an “escape room” — a physical adventure game where players complete goals by solving puzzles — your creativity probably spiked. That’s because challenges act as a catalyst for us to think creatively and come up with simultaneous ideas or solutions. For example, if you turn a knob and find out a door is locked, you begin to automatically brainstorm ideas and solutions — jiggling the knob, pounding on the door, trying your luck with a bobby pin.

You can stimulate yourself similarly at work by setting a time limit for a task or taking on an “ultimate challenge” in your industry, Epstein says. Think about the overarching issues and questions in your field (How do I end world hunger in one week? How can I invent a phone that doesn’t require a charger?) and practice brainstorming open-ended solutions.

When It Comes to Your Business, Are You Competing or Creating?

When It Comes to Your Business, Are You Competing or Creating?

When It Comes to Your Business, Are You Competing or Creating?

Terry Rice VIP Contributor Digital Marketing Expert-in-Residence, Entrepreneur August 10, 2019 4 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ryan Daniel Moran has been an entrepreneur since he was five years old. His first gig was creating hand-drawn pictures on computer paper, knocking on people’s doors and asking them to pay a penny for each of his drawings.

Today, Ryan is a well-respected leader on entrepreneurship. As a serial entrepreneur, author, and investor, Ryan’s main focus is on creating lifestyle freedom — helping people create lasting businesses and investing the profits wisely, while enjoying a higher quality of life, and working less.ADVERTISING

Ryan stayed true to his roots when talking to Entrepreneur, encouraging other entrepreneurs to create — as opposed to competing — for a slice of the pie.

“What can I get?” vs “What can I create?”

“I’ve noticed a trend in the world of entrepreneurship, specifically the internet entrepreneurial world, where the approach is less about what I can create but instead what can I get?

“The difference comes down to the intent at the beginning of the transaction. My company name is The system of capitalism depends on both parties getting more than they give in a transaction. An entrepreneur’s job is to create the thing that people want more than they want money.  

“Oftentimes entrepreneurs — especially on the internet where we live behind screens and look at numbers and traffic and algorithms — are very tempted to look at a marketplace like or even eBay or Etsy and simply say ‘Where is their opportunity?’ ‘Where is their money to be extracted?’ versus ‘What can I give that is so valuable that people can’t help but pay me money for it?’ This is not just benevolence, creating more than you take is also how you get rich.”

How to create value for your audience

“The question that often comes up when I talk about this is ‘How do you discover what is actually so valuable that people can’t help but give you money?’ What I’ve discovered is that, in the modern world of entrepreneurship, we think we’re really smart because we have access to a lot of data. But data doesn’t necessarily represent what human beings really want.

“In order to create something that is of immense value — so much so that other people can’t help but pay you money for it — you either have to take a risk or create something that has to come out of you: a solution to a problem, a piece of art, a song. You’re either a creative, or you are a problem solver and that requires humility. That requires that you ask human beings what it is that they want most.

“One of the entrepreneurs that I admire most in this world, Dan Sullivan, would say, ‘Only test on check writers.’ Only go to the people who will ultimately be customers, and ask to test your idea on them. Discover what it is that they ultimately want.

“This sounds so fundamental, and it is, yet most entrepreneurs skip this step.”

Common mistakes to avoid

“The conversation that is so common among entrepreneurs is ‘What product do I sell?’ ‘Where is their opportunity?’ ‘What marketplace should I sell on?’ When you hear an entrepreneur talk like that, you know that they are pursuing money rather than creating something.

“When someone is asking about sales before they have something of value or before they have a skill set that is valuable to other people, you know that they are thinking about what they can get, rather than what they can create or how they can serve.

“That is why people get stuck in the creation process. They stop creating for a person, and they start creating for a result. That is a big difference. When you’re creating for a result, you tend to push it away; when you create for human beings, you tend to get the result.”

4 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Take Labor Day Off

4 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Take Labor Day Off

4 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Take Labor Day Off

Matthew Toren Contributor Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of September 1, 2019 3 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This story was originally published on Sept. 6, 2015

For most people, Labor Day is a time to kick back, relax and enjoy the company of friends and family. But for many entrepreneurs, it is just another work day.ADVERTISING

While burning the midnight oil is often a necessity to get your startup launched and keep it trucking along, a little R&R can not only help recharge your batteries but research has shown it can help boost your productivity.

One internal study conducted by accounting firm Ernst & Young in 2006 showed for every ten hours of vacation an employee took, their end-of-the-year job performance rating got boosted 8 percent. In 2011, travel site Expedia found 52 percent of employees feel better about their jobs and more productive after vacation. Another study conducted by Harvard stated sleep deprivation cost U.S. businesses $63.2 billion a year due to loss in productivity.

So, before you decided to skip a friend’s BBQ or nix the idea of getting away for the day, here are four reasons you give yourself a break on Labor Day.

Reconnect with people

There are more people in your life besides work colleagues. Yet, being an entrepreneur makes it much tougher to maintain friendships outside your startup. The busier you are, the easier it gets to tell yourself you’ll call someone later.

Let Labor Day be a time to reclaim friendships you have pushed to the backburner and an occasion to surround yourself with loved ones. Just make sure you do it completely detached from work.

Set an example

Labor Day is the best time to hop on the bandwagon and turn off your phone, switch on the grill and enjoy a day disconnected from the instant access and connectivity that powers your startup.

If anyone calls you with business on the brain, the straight to voicemail hint might just remind them that it’s actually Labor Day.

As an entrepreneur, you should try build the Labor Day brand. Encourage other entrepreneurs to remove themselves from work and enjoy their surroundings.

Labor Day should remind you what carefree feels like

Remember when you were a kid zipping around your neighborhood on a bike without a care in the world? Let this Labor Day be a time to reclaim your sense of adventure.

Having fun not only helps you relax, but it can help clear your head, which can help ignite creativity. Who knows, maybe you’ll come back to work with a whole new approach to a problem that has been bothering you.

You need to hit reset

Building your business or brainstorming something new is great, but the only way to recharge after a few 12-hour days is to dedicate some time to refocus your perspective. Any entrepreneur will suffer from tunnel vision after they’ve been crunching on a project for a week, and you’ll probably notice a giant dip in your productivity. The only way to fix it is to save yourself some eyestrain and go to a quiet, disconnected place. Doing so, you’ll return refreshed and ready to tackle issues.

As an entrepreneur, how will you be spending Labor Day? Let us know in the comments below.