For companies looking to grow and find solutions to today’s complex problems, creativity is key — but it cannot be forced.
Thriving in today’s globalized economy has become increasingly dependent on your ability to develop creative solutions. Unfortunately, creativity is not something that can be be ordered online — still, there are ways to cultivate imaginative and original ideas. Here are 7 ways get your team’s creative juices flowing.
Beyond simply fulfilling some requirement, a diverse workforce contributes to measurable advantages, and ultimately returns, in terms of boosting creative output and productivity. Across a range of categories, including age, sex, race, wealth, and intellectual background, teams that represent a broader swath of experiences come up with more dynamic solutions and make better decisions.
Homogeneous groups struggle to develop innovative ideas because they are more likely to think the same way, and will not challenge each other in ways that breed novelty. The bottom line for your bottom line is this: assemble groups with an array of backgrounds and personalities to fuel creativity.
Group brainstorms can be an effective way to tease out new and better ideas, but only if the sessions are conducted in a strategic way. It can be difficult to strike a balance between unbridled support and constructive criticism, but open and honest discussion are essential to generating innovative thought. Respectively discussing the pitfalls of a certain idea will help generate effective alternatives. Find a way to provide meaningful feedback without discouraging contribution from all team members.
In the same vein, it is important to appropriately reward the risk-taking that inherently comes with creative problem solving. If your employees feel that the company does not support creativity, it is unlikely that they will put any effort into developing imaginative solutions. The way your company responds to new ideas will greatly influence this perception, so stay open-minded and do not penalize employees for offering underdeveloped or overzealous suggestions. Consider creative ways to encourage such risk taking with friendly competitions or low pressure deadlines. Cultivating creativity is a process, so patience and compassion are essential.
Trust Your Employees
Similarly, if your employees feel stifled by a lack of trust from their superiors, it’s unlikely that they’ll be inspired to engage in much outside-the-box thinking. Avoid hovering and micromanaging. Giving your employees full autonomy over their own projects sends the message that you are confident in their abilities, and less stress actually helps fuel creative thinking, as Lit Reactor explains.
Freedom for employees to try new things and experiment without asking permission has also been shown to boost problem solving, according to InnovationExcellence. Admittedly, it can be tricky to determine who will do well with autonomy and who will not, but this is a risk worth taking to reap the potential rewards of innovative problem solving.
Encourage Casual Conversation
Promoting casual conversation in the office is a great way to affect innovative thought. Because such interactions are unstructured and organic, they give employees the freedom to explore and expand on new ideas. Part of the problem with deliberate brainstorming meetings is that creativity cannot always be summoned on demand. Developing spaces where staff members can naturally meet and work together will help uncork their creative juices.
Change Your Office
Changing the physical layout of your office to accommodate these interactions has proven useful for companies like Pixar, Google, and Facebook (not to mention startups everywhere). Instead of isolating workers in cubicles, design your workspace to incorporate group desks or comfortable communal sitting spaces. Make sure to offer private areas as well, for all the times employees need their own space. As Jessica Stillman of Inc. puts it, “channel your inner urban planner” and adopt a “zoning strategy.” Even carefully choosing your color schemes to match the atmosphere you want to create can have a significant impact, as Huffington Post explains.
In the same way stress limits creative thinking, positive moods have been shown to do just the opposite, according to Psych Central. This may be because an elevated mood expands our perspective, allowing for increased cognitive flexibility. Thus, it is valuable to create as positive a working environment as possible. This may mean bringing games to the office, installing writable walls or adding an interior garden (if you have the means), or even just blocking out a time and space for quiet reflection — whatever it is that helps maintain a relaxed and calm environment. Such elements will also encourage natural interactions between officemates, thus further stirring creative inspiration.
Ken Sterling is the Chief Marketing Officer at BigSpeak Speakers’ bureau – the leading keynote and business speakers bureau in the world. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and an MBA from Babson College. Ken teaches Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Strategy at UC Santa Barbara. He is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, business consultant and sales & marketing expert. For press interviews, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Image credit: Thomas Litangen/Unsplash)