Creativity is not just for painters and writers anymore. Today’s world is so fast-paced and demanding that every company, from software developers to concrete manufacturers, needs to encourage creative thinking to meet the demands of the marketplace quickly and flexibly.
It’s well enough saying your company needs to be creative, but how do you go about encouraging creativity? Well, it requires some day-to-day changes, a new approach to meetings and a company culture that encourages creativity. If you need a little more guidance than that, then read on. These are ten things you can do to promote creativity in the workplace – right now, in meetings and for the long term.
Promote creativity right now
These are simple things you can implement right now to instantly boost creativity in your company. If you’re looking for some simple tweaks to your company, this is where you start.
- Set specific goals and reward creative thinking. Creativity works best when it is channelled to a specific end. After all, you won’t want your employees wasting time thinking of something that’s wrong, when they could be thinking about solutions. So think of one thing you want fixed in your company, and challenge your employees to come up with creative solutions. You could even do this regularly, with a challenge of the month. Then make sure you publicly reward the creative thinking to create positive reinforcement.
- Create innovation teams to tackle specific problems or meet goals. You can’t have all your employees daydreaming all the time, even if they are trying to fix certain problems within the company. So create innovation teams to tackle specific problems. Give them the whole story, then see what solutions they come up with.
- Encourage employees to come up with “what if we” questions. These questions are meant to get employees thinking about approaches, processes and products in a whole new way. Get them to finish the question “what if we” – as in “what if we worked half days?” “What if we had fewer, but better paying, clients?” “What if we made a product that pushed every technical and creative boundary we have?” Then encourage them to share those questions and figure out ways to make them work. The crazier the questions, the better. It’s not about coming up with unviable plans. It’s about encouraging them to think past the budget limitations, company processes and traditions that they assume are written in stone.
Promote creativity in meetings
Meetings help employees work together, giving them the time and space to discuss challenges, assign tasks and generally take stock of projects’ progress. This is a great place to introduce actions that increase creativity, as creative thinking is usually necessary – but honestly often in short supply – in meetings.
- Brainstorm ideas alone, then share them in the brainstorming meetings. This is a controversial idea, because it shakes up all our notions about what a brainstorming meeting is. But studies have shown that brainstorming alone encourages creativity. Employees stop worrying about how others will receive their ideas, or topping someone else’s idea, and they just let the creativity flow. Then, when everyone is together, they can help develop the great ideas they produced individually.
- Introduce anonymity and turns. Again, this seems a little counter-intuitive. How can we bounce ideas off of one another if we’re not talking directly to each other, right? Well, the problem is that some people will dominate any meeting. It’s just a personality trait, and while it’s often very useful, it can lead to other, less vocal people from getting their ideas heard. The less vocal people may be shy, or they may not like interrupting, but by introducing anonymity (through a suggestions box or something similar) and a system whereby everyone takes turns talking, everyone can get their ideas out there.
- Hold meetings that require extra creativity in new places, or do a walk and talk. The thought goes like this: our brains are complex sensory organs that will get bored by, and subsequently will shut themselves off when confronted by, things they encounter every day. It’s a mechanism that keeps them from overloading with information, but it also discourages creativity in offices. Wake employees’ brains up by holding meetings anywhere but the meeting room you always use. Or, even better, get the brain active and the blood pumping by going on a West Wing-style walk and talk. All the extra blood flow, oxygen, sights and sounds will get the creativity flowing in no time.
Promote creativity for the long term
Of course, these changes won’t stick if you don’t create a company culture that values creativity. These are long-term actions you can implement to ensure your company puts creativity right at the centre of everything it does.
- Hire people from diverse backgrounds who share your company vision. When you build a creative company culture, you need the company to feel like a family (so they don’t worry about negative reactions to their ideas), and they need to have differing backgrounds (so they don’t all look at the same problem the same way). These can and should include different financial, educational, employment and every other kind of background, since people from all walks of life can have useful perspectives on challenges and their many potential solutions. Just make sure they all value the company culture of creativity and openness, so friendliness and good feelings will be the base that you build your creative company culture on.
- Encourage every employee to understand and appreciate the others. Set up programmes that allow employees who don’t normally work together to shadow and mentor each other. Have employees job swap for a day, and urge them to have lunches regularly with colleagues they rarely talk to. This will further establish the feelings of openness, understanding and friendliness that your creative culture needs, and it will allow employees to provide each other with new, creative approaches as employees from different teams will bring new perspectives to tough challenges.
- Make sure you foster a creative, relaxed culture. You can’t have a creative culture without a lot of work from management. Make a big, public show about how much you support and value creative thinking and constructive risk taking, so employees understand that they won’t be punished for trying something new. Value your employees’ need for down time, both at work and away. A well-rested brain is much more creative (and productive), so give employees plenty of time to work on things that won’t necessarily help your bottom line immediately. Let them train in a completely unrelated subject, or just daydream with a cup of tea for a bit.
- Finally and most importantly, listen to your employees and support them. Make sure you give your employees the tools, time and support they need to be fully creative. Ask them what they need, and give it to them. Incorporate their ideas everywhere you can, so they know you aren’t just doing this for no reason. They need to have the time, space and tools to be creative, but they also need to know that it has a point.
- If you incorporate these ten actions into your company, you should see a marked difference in your employees’ creativity. So get started making these changes now. All you have to lose is the same old boring way of thinking.
* * *
Libby French is the director for ipadrepairs.co.uk. Her favorite part of her job is working along side her talented team. In her spare time, Libby enjoys keeping up to date with tech and design trends.