There are only three pure colors — red, blue and yellow — but look at what Michelangelo did with those three colors. There are only 12 notes, but look at what Chopin, Beethoven and Vivaldi did with those 12 notes. President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address contained fewer than 275 words, and most of them had one syllable. Think of the effect those simple, direct words have had on our society. There are only 10 numerals, but look at what Bernie Madoff did with them. Never mind ... that was way too creative.

My point is that creativity is very basic, incredibly necessary and all too rare in business.

The American Marketing Association did a study several years back, asking 500 CEOs and company presidents: What do you have to do to survive the next five years? A whopping 81% said creativity and vision. Now get this: Of the 500 surveyed, 81% of them said that their company was not doing a good job at it.

When I speak publicly, my first lesson is always creativity. I feel it is that important. There is no correlation between IQ and creativity. Every single person reading this column can become much more creative than they ever imagined.

Statistics indicate that between the ages of 5 and 17, there is an extreme decline in a person’s creativity level. And as we age, our creativity drops even more. Don’t let it. Get rid of that “we-are-not-creative” attitude.

I love to study creative companies. My theory is that they have what it takes to be successful because their customers appreciate the thought that goes into their products and services. Wouldn’t these creative signs for businesses attract your attention?

A tire shop in Milwaukee advertises: “Invite us to your next blowout.”

At a car dealership: “The best way to get back on your feet: miss a car payment.”

Outside a muffler shop: “No appointment necessary. We’ll hear you coming.”

On a maternity room door: “Push ... Push ... Push.”

In a veterinarian’s waiting room: “Be back in 5 minutes. SIT!!! STAY!!!”

In a podiatrist’s office: “Time wounds all heels.”

Let me tell you about one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. On a trip to New York, I was shocked to get into a shiny, clean cab, with a stereo playing beautiful music. The smartly dressed driver handed me a laminated card and said: “Hi, I’m Wally, your driver.” On the card was his mission statement. A mission statement! It said he was going to get me to my destination in the quickest, safest and cheapest way possible, in a friendly environment.

As we pulled away, he asked me if I was hungry. As I recall, he had an apple, banana and a Snickers bar. He had that day’s editions of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and USA Today laid out on the seat.

A short while later, he asked me if I had a favorite kind of music I would like to listen to, whether the temperature was comfortable for me.

I asked Wally how long he had been doing this, and he said a couple of years, after he heard it on TV from a self-improvement guru.

It was none of my business, but I had to ask Wally how much extra he gets in tips each year because of all his efforts. He said $20,000 to $25,000.

Trust me, creativity like that is priceless!

Mackay’s Moral: If necessity is the mother of invention, creativity is the fairy godmother.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail