Creativity, no doubt, makes life more exciting and worthwhile but what’s its business value?
Sure, companies in certain fields – marketing agencies, publishing companies, movie production studios, etc. – already know the answer to this question, but the truth is, creativity goes hand in hand with innovation and success in every industry.
Especially in the modern AI-driven world, an employee’s ability to look for new ways to approach tasks and implement creative solutions becomes increasingly important.
Is your team stuck doing what they’ve always done in the way things have always been done? Try these 10 proven methods for fostering creativity in the workplace and achieve a definite competitive advantage along with an increase in employee satisfaction.
What is creativity anyway?
Creativity, when it comes down to it, is a clash, a combination of frameworks, ideas, and tidbits. This definition first appeared in “The Act of Creation” by Arthur Koestler. Later on, other authors subdivided the creative process into particular stages.
The first stage is exploring the world and gathering a collection of ideas, quotes, thoughts. It’s a part of everyone’s life – you read a book or watch a movie and you’re already adding to your mental database.
Then comes a task that requires creativity, and you put a lot of thought into it. It is at this stage that exchanges, brainstorms, and other collaborative thinking takes place.
And yet, it is at a third stage when you’ve seemingly forgotten about the task, when you’re showering or taking a walk or eating lunch that you have that “aha” moment, that interesting combination of ideas and visions that is that great creative thought.
The process may seem straightforward, but there are actually a number of factors that make it possible. Let’s discuss how they apply to workplace settings.
Let employees participate in decision-making
Ever had a great idea that got shut down with no explanations? That’s super annoying for sure.
That’s why you need to make sure your employees know and see that their creativity is valued, that it’s then integrated in decision-making.
Don’t make all major company decisions behind closed doors and then hold meeting announcing them. Show your team that the company is united in considering all options and coming to solutions optimal for each particular situation.
There’s nothing more motivating for an employee than being heard. Seeing the video they proposed take shape and be placed in the company website’s landing page is sure to result in many new ideas and approaches.
The two stages we mentioned above – the gathering of ideas and the break that follows a brainstorm – are very important parts of the creative process.
Let your employees waste time looking at instagram artists and reading random blogs – within reason, of course. Don’t approach them to ask about rescheduling tasks when they’re pensively watching a fly on the wall. Maybe they’re a thought or two away from a solution that’ll change the course of the whole company.
In general, if you have a successful hiring process, micro-management is not only unnecessary but also harmful. Only if you let people take responsibility for their tasks and time will you achieve an atmosphere beneficial for creativity and innovation.
Make space for innovative ideas
This can be interpreted in two very important ways.
One way is to make a separate virtual space dedicated to creativity. For example, you can set up a slack channel #creativity and implement the most popular ideas or hold regular meetings dedicated to working on creative solutions for various aims and issues.
Another way is to make the actual physical office space conducive to creativity. You can invite employees to embellish the space, put little suggestion boxes in every room or organize a mini office library full of inspiring books. It’s also significant to acknowledge and encourage creativity whenever you see. Did someone write an interesting quote on the whiteboard next to a sketch of a funny character? Post it in the #creativity slack channel and let the author know what thought or feeling the quote inspired.
Be open to the possibility of mistakes
The only thing worse than having your ideas constantly ignored is having a finger pointed at you for a less than successful idea implementation.
“Yeah, well the campaign spectacularly failed – thanks, Josh, for the idea.”
Josh will likely stay silent for the rest of his professional life.
The spark of creativity almost always involves a risk. With the right risk assessment this shouldn’t be a major issue. It is true that “if you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.” Mistakes will happen. And most importantly, any mistake is everyone’s mistake.
Make sure your employees know that much like Samuel Beckett, you urge: “Fail again. Fail better.”
Make your employees care about the company
Creative process requires effort, and it’s hard to invest your out-of-the-box thinking in a company you don’t care about. And people don’t usually care about hierarchical companies.
This is a key takeout point: People contribute creativity to companies where they’re “in this together” with their supervisors, colleagues, and key decision-makers. That’s why you, as a manager, should be open with them about your professional hopes and dreams, failures and struggles and then put them in the greater context of common goals and ambitions.
Hold regular meetings to assess the situation and give everyone a chance to speak out. This is especially wonderful if the goal of the company is something more noble and valuable to humanity than making everyone rich.
Make your company “good” – contribute to causes, ask and understand why your employees fall short, organize volunteering days, etc.
Ask for feedback
Use periodic anonymous surveys and one-on-one meetings to assess what’s hindering your employees’ creativity. You’d be surprised what people who seemingly had nothing to say come up with when you ask them directly or indirectly to make a creative contribution.
We’ve all heard of newcomers in a company being told, “Oh, we don’t do things like that around here.” The idea that a company has one set ideal of an employees results in a many-headed dragon that agrees about everything and is improbable to ever be open to a clash so needed for a productive creative process.
Encourage diversity of backgrounds and frameworks in a team.
Also, people are more creative when they are constantly faced with new types of tasks and challenges and so avoid burnout. Make sure you’re dedicated to the diversity of their professional life and your employees will come up with more creative ideas and avoid burnout.
Build strong relationships
Having teams with strong interpersonal relationships is a big factor in inviting creativity. People are more likely to speak out, build upon each other’s ideas, and come up with something wonderful if they like the people they work with.
That’s why having regular team-building activities, sharing knowledge, taking note and addressing any tensions in professional relationships, and tackling challenging tasks that require team effort are so important.
“Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.” Same applies to business, so steal big. There’s nothing wrong with stealing great ideas from your competitors and applying them to your company with certain adjustments.
This statement sounds strong, but in reality researching competitors and combining their frameworks is an extremely creative endeavor. Let your employees analyze and give specific reasons why they think this or that tactic will fly at your company and another will not.
Make creativity a part of the company brand
There is no better way to make sure creative people apply to your company than to position the company brand as an employer that values creativity.
You can show it through all branding items, from an interesting logo to an out-of-the-box mission statement or “About Us” webpage. Choose a friendly and creative social media tone, use it in job announcements and ads. In fact, you can make it a requirement and avoid the same-old same-old people altogether.
Have you tried any or all of these methods? Which results did you get? Share the story of your team in the comments! We really wanna know.
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