Barry Hearn is the man who pretty much invented snooker as a mass spectator sport, he also did the same with darts.

He’s helped build the careers of people like Steve Davis and Chris Eubank, he’s a promoter, a hustler, an opportunist, the working-class version of an entrepreneur.

We can learn a lot about creativity from Barry Hearn.

For instance, in the early days he had a business promoting events, but events cost money and you need a sponsor.

Hearn was about to put on an event that cost £150,000, he had borrowed the money.

He tried every source he knew, to sponsor the event but no one was interested.

If he couldn’t find a sponsor the event wouldn’t happen, and he was in debt for £150,000.

His last chance was the manager of a chain of hotels, Hearn made the pitch but the manager said he didn’t have any money.

Hearn thanked him and turned to leave.

Then the manager said, “But I could let you have £300,000 of hotel rooms if that’s any good.”

Barry Hearn said, “Before I’d walked back to the railway station I’d sold the rooms to people I knew in the travel business at a 40% discount.

I’d covered the costs, made a profit, and that was the start of my business.”

THAT is creativity.

To be able to find your way round a problem by looking at it from a different angle.

In our language, get upstream and reframe the problem.

The problem wasn’t a sponsor, the problem was money.

This guy’s got a lot of hotel rooms he can’t sell, but how is that money?

We reframe the problem as who would buy those hotel rooms?

Lots of people would buy those rooms at a 40% discount, which leaves Hearn £180,000.

Call it upstream thinking, call it entrepreneurialism, call it street smarts.

I said we can learn a lot about creativity from his thinking, in what way?

George Lois’s client was National Geographic magazine, he was having lunch with the editor.

Most of the income was from subscribers, so every year they sent a gift to keep them sweet.

The budget was 50 cents apiece, so usually it was just a paperback.

Lois said it was boring, the editor said what else could they do for the money?

Then a woman walked by in a fur coat, the editor grumbled about her contributing to the extinction of another species.

He said he was worried about wolves becoming extinct, he had hundreds wolf calls on tape.

At that point George Lois did what Barry Hearn had done.

He thought that’s not just wolf calls, but what hundreds of wolf calls could represent.

He could put them on a record for free, with a narrator, that would make a perfect gift for National Geographic subscribers.

Lois knew that Robert Redford was filming Jeremiah Johnson, a film about a frontiersman who slaughtered lots of wolves.

Lois knew he’d be feeling guilty so he asked him to do the VO, for free, to help conservation.

The resulting record was such a hit that the music critic of the New York Times reviewed it on the front page, and National Geographic sold the rights to Columbia Records.

That’s the kind of creativity we can learn from Barry Hearn and George Lois.

Everything’s a tough problem, everything’s an excuse to do nothing but grumble.

You’ll always get lots of agreement that you couldn’t do anything.

But grumbling just keeps you stuck where you are.

Some people look for opportunities, some people just look for excuses.