The cornerstones of productivity are staying organized, mission-driven, and efficient. But, staying creative shouldn’t come at the expense of those pillars. On the contrary, creativity is becoming an increasingly valuable asset in the workplace for both individuals and teams.
Furthermore, the World Economic Forum states that creativity is or is related to nine of the ten skills that will define the world in 2020 and beyond. In addition to increasing confidence and collaboration, being creative increases problem-solving skills.
But that’s not all. In business, creativity has the following benefits.
It goes hand-in-hand with innovation.
Innovation requires two ingredients: Novelty and utility. Unfortunately, despite the importance of creativity in generating unique and original ideas, they’re not always practical. Creative solutions, however, are essential for innovative solutions.
Leads to productivity.
Creativity fosters productivity as long as the work environment allows them to coexist. As a result, creativity can lead to productivity in the following ways:
- Prevents getting stuck in a rut. There’s nothing wrong with routines. However, sometimes you need to shake things up and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Doing so will expose you to fresh ideas and perspectives.
- Solves bigger problems. You and employees will be able to see the bigger picture and focus their energy on issues that significantly impact the company when creative thinking is encouraged. When employees can apply these efforts to bigger-picture problems rather than simply churning out work, they are more productive — and the business thrives.
- When employees are encouraged to be creative, their workplaces will be changed for the better. Motivation comes from allowing people to make a tangible, visible difference in their workplace. You don’t want to feel like a drone, mindlessly completing tasks without any apparent impact on your life.
- People get emotionally involved in it. Quite simply, work without passion is tedious — especially for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. Some people, however, require a little more motivation to spark that passion at work. Participating in the creative process empowers workers, regardless of their department or role.
- By promoting creativity, failure becomes less likely. People need the freedom to fail if they are going to foster a creative environment. Creative environments that fear failure are crippled and hamstring the flow of ideas. As a result of fear, we tend to color outside the lines, preventing us from identifying new and more effective ways of working, improving processes, streamlining operations, and creating new products.
It may not always be necessary to adjust your business model when creatively addressing challenges. For example, to improve the efficiency of your operations, you might develop new products or services. However, don’t reject an idea because it doesn’t match the scale of a problem.
Business is a world of constant change, and adapting to it requires creative solutions.
Growth depends on it.
The idea that there is only one way to approach or interpret a situation or challenge is one of the main hindrances to a business’s growth.
It’s easy to fall into cognitive fixedness because it can be tempting to approach every situation the same way you have in the past. There are, however, differences between each situation.
A company’s leaders can stagnate if they do not take the time to understand the circumstances they face, foster creative thinking, and act on findings.
The skill is in demand.
Top industries like health care and manufacturing value creativity and innovation. It is mainly due to the complexity of challenges faced by every industry.
How to Encourage Creativity in the Workplace
So, we know that creativity is essential. But, how exactly can you encourage it in the workplace?
1. Schedule opportunities for creative thinking.
“Creative thinking can often be overlooked if it doesn’t get time on our calendars,” writes Nathan Rawlins in CIO. “There will always be more meetings and tasks to check off our lists, so it’s important to actually book time for creative activities.”
For example, hackathons have resulted in significant updates for our product offerings. In two to three days, teams spend a lot of time thinking creatively, collaborating, and testing out ideas outside the box. “The results are fantastic features that bring value to both the product and the company,” adds Rawlins. “Additionally, these events boost morale and demonstrate our commitment to creativity and innovation.”
2. Instill autonomy.
Increased responsibility and autonomy will likely lead to the generation of more ideas, as well as a greater sense of pride and confidence in your team’s skills.
Broadly, this could allow your team to work however they want, instead of micromanaging. More specifically, you let your team choose the agenda when meeting one-on-one.
3. Implement flexible work hours.
Consider offering flexible or work-from-home hours for specific roles requiring only an internet connection. When employees work from home, they can think more clearly, come up with more innovative ideas, and reduce their stress levels.
Establish clear expectations and guidelines to ensure steady productivity at home. And plan a flexible schedule that suits managers and their teams and the company’s requirements.
4. Don’t worry about “how.”
“Leaders unknowingly weaken their team’s creativity by focusing too early on implementation,” says Lisa Guice, Lisa Guice Global-Vision, LLC. “The fastest way to kill the creative process is by requiring your team to produce tactical solutions in tandem with creative ideas.”
This not only stifles the creative flow but also shifts the work environment into a “produce while editing” mindset, which results in a diminished individual contribution.”
5. De-silo your organization.
For innovative teamwork to take place, it is essential that a collaborative and social environment is created. Managers will notice a significant difference when they take steps to “de-silo” their organizations.
In addition to working on their own projects, employees can interact with colleagues in other departments and learn more about the company. As a result, ideas and inspiration will flow freely throughout departments, sparking creativity.
Furthermore, humor is great for team building, inclusivity, and creativity.
What if you have a primarily remote or hybrid team? You might want to set up a Slack or similar chat channel called “water cooler.” By doing so, your employees can engage in some friendly office banter. Or, at the end of your team meetings, schedule time for everyone to discuss their plans for the weekend.
Playfulness creates a sense of belonging and safety, inspiring creativity.
6. Get walking.
Regarding fresh thinking, walking is one of the oldest and most effective sources. “Walking meetings” were a popular method used by Steve Jobs to foster connection and creativity with coworkers and collaborators.
In addition, Harvard Medical School researchers found that walking meetings enhanced creativity by 5.25% and engagement by 8.5%. Stanford University researchers also discovered that walking increased creative thinking by 60%. The movement itself energizes the brain, regardless of how long or where it takes place.
7. Don’t let good ideas go to waste.
Incentives should be provided to encourage employees to share their ideas. One suggestion is to implement the best ideas and to acknowledge other people’s efforts. To let the employee know you plan to implement their ideas — I suggest you personalize your message. Finally, if the change is successful, notify the team of the inspiration behind it.
To foster innovation, it is important to address and publicly commend good ideas. As a result, team members feel more inspired to share their ideas and opinions.
8. Encourage self-reflection.
You’ll find that your employees become absorbed in their work and forget the importance of what they’re doing when the workload picks up. To combat this, make check-ins for self-reflection a habit for employees. By doing this exercise, they are inspired to see things from a different perspective, both in terms of what they have achieved and what lies ahead.
Your team can also see the concrete results of their hard work and innovative solutions by sharing monthly or quarterly achievements.
9. Allow for failure.
When you ask your employees for their creative input, ensure they know you don’t expect perfection or thoroughly polished work. To be able to take risks without negative consequences, staff members need to be allowed to develop plans that go awry. The ability to fail wisely is a valuable skill for managers and companies.
“Once [employees] see, firsthand, the value of putting out what we call a ‘low-resolution prototype’ and getting feedback from a key constituent, and seeing how that direct[s] the next step, people start to become believers in that process,” explains Graham Henshaw, executive director of the Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center at William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business, on the W&M Leadership and Business podcast. “[Innovators must have] an openness to risk… You’re willing to take risks where you might fail, but you learn something from that failure and move forward,” he continued, emphasizing, “[You need] a tolerance for ambiguity… You’re withholding that need for immediate closure.”
10. Set a tone of risk-taking.
Most professionals feel that their firms and departments are not taking enough risks. However, the risk is essential to enhance your business’s competitive advantage and encourage creativity.
When appropriate, empower employees to make bold decisions and push them to take calculated risks instead of micromanaging them.
Image Credit: Photo by Shukhrat Umarov; Pexels; Thank you!