Fostering Creativity in the Workplace
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Fostering Creativity in the Workplace

I firmly believe that as an entrepreneur, it’s important to grow your sense of curiosity and creativity. This principle applies to your employees as well.  When you’re leading a business it’s easy to make encouraging productivity among your employees your top priority.  But this shouldn’t come at the cost of fostering creativity in the workplace.

Does a company have to sacrifice one for the other? Luckily, there are tons of ways to encourage creativity in your team—making for happier and more productive workers.

Creativity starts at the top

Showing your employees that their boss can think creatively will inspire them to do the same. Try to think aloud and brainstorm at your meetings. Be sure to float new ideas and invite others to ask questions or give feedback.

A creative manager can model what it looks like to think outside the box and get your employees’ imaginations up and running.

Why should you encourage creativity at work?

Fostering Creativity in the Workplace
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Creativity doesn’t have to be super-innovative to be useful.  Simply suggesting a new way to file paperwork or communicate with the main office can be a welcome change.  There are two main ways that creativity emerges at work:

  • Creative thinking: This includes completely new ideas and new products.  It could also be a new way of doing a task that has been done the same for years.
  • Creative problem solving: This goes beyond obvious solutions to problems. A creative problem-solver explores new resources and ideas for solving company challenges.

Real examples of fostering creativity in the workplace:

Creativity seminars

Many companies have ushered in a new culture of fostering creativity in the workplace by having an informational seminar.  In fact, some companies perform these seminars for businesses that want to foster creativity in the workplace.  In this seminar, your company could learn how to

  • Give permission to employees to take time for creative thinking.
  • Practice ways to foster creativity in the workplace.
  • Explain ways that creativity can be rewarded.
  • Implement a “20 percent program”

Google has made this type of program famous, but many other companies have followed suit.  Businesses that follow the “20 percent program” allow employees to spend 20 percent of their time working on side projects.

These projects could include just sitting and thinking, taking a jog, or researching something related or unrelated to their job on the computer. Go with their inspiration. Employees can stop what they are doing to pursue a new idea right away.

Allow for rest

  • Companies like Nike, Google, Capital One and Cisco cite research confirming that rested employees are more creative and productive.
  • Some of these firms even provide nap rooms or sleep pods for their employees to recharge and come back to work rested and thinking more clearly.

Set goals for your employees

Fostering Creativity in the Workplace
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You don’t have to have a seminar or change your whole company policy to begin to foster creativity in the workplace.  You can start implementing plans today.

Ask each employee to provide a suggestion for the next weekly or monthly meeting.  Chances are your employees already have ideas that they have been hesitant to bring forward.  Their suggestions could be anything from a brand-new product to a more efficient way of billing clients.

Set goals for yourself

Commit to listening carefully and asking questions.  Validation of creative thinking will foster more creativity later.

Encourage brainstorming

Most employees can be creative, but not all are bold about approaching the boss. Encourage employees to take time to huddle up with others to hammer out their ideas.

Set up a place for written suggestions

After an employee has submitted an idea in writing, you can set up a meeting for them with other team members that may have some good input.

Give them permission to use time and space for creativity

A room with a white board and two or three creative employees can yield amazing ideas and plans.

Reward creativity – even if you don’t implement the idea

No one wants to think they’ll waste their time coming up with an idea, only to have it shot down right away. Take their suggestions seriously – listen and ask questions.

  • Managers often have a reflexive “No” when it comes to new ideas. Practice listening without being negative.
  • You can use the improv technique, “‘yes, and…’ instead of ‘no, but…’” to comment on employee ideas. For example, after an idea is brought up, you may be tempted to say something like, “Yes, but we tried that before and it didn’t work.”  Instead, say “Yes, and we have some data already that we can check on to see how we can do it differently.”
  • Changing your language can change your thinking. Commit to adding to, not taking away from, creative ideas.
  • For employee suggestions that are implemented (or may be implemented in the future,) offer a tangible reward. This could be in the form of a monetary reward. However, simple recognition of a job well done among their peers is more satisfying for employees than you may think.  A handwritten note, a positive review, or recognition in the company newsletter can also go a long way to validate an employee’s idea.

Failure is an option

Fostering Creativity in the Workplace
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Just ask Thomas Edison – The most innovative ideas often come after failed ones. Let your employees know that new ideas are always welcome, even if the implementation fails.

Encourage risk-taking and speaking up

  • It’s not just a risk to implement a new plan. It’s also risky to speak up with an out-of-the-box idea in the morning meeting. Fostering creativity in the workplace is only possible if you make your meetings a safe, non-judgmental place to share ideas.
  • Use the catch phrase, “If you don’t ask for it, the answer is always ‘no.’” And Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote, “You’ll miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take.” It may sound corny, but it’s true – one hundred percent of the ideas that you don’t verbalize won’t be listened to. And if they aren’t heard, they won’t be implemented.
  • Start by encouraging quantity, not quality of ideas. Fill up your whiteboard with nonsense, if you must.  Setting the tone for fostering creativity in the workplace will start with encouraging participation.  Participation by all employees is important, no matter how outlandish it is.

A Creative Office Culture and Environment

A creative workforce starts with a creative environment.

Aim for both diversity and teamwork

A homogeneous environment can kill creativity.  It’s true that having a team with similar backgrounds, education, and experience can lead to easy bonding.  But new, innovative ideas seldom come from a uniform group.  When fostering creativity in the workplace, aim for both diversity and community.

  • Don’t set hiring quotas. Instead, relax some of your hiring criteria.  Expand your employee search to include candidates from different professional backgrounds.  Expand your criteria for educational background as well, to diversify your team.
  • Give opportunities for mingling. Social gatherings and team-building events can bring a diverse group together and get the creative juices flowing.
  • Aim for diversity within company departments, too. An employee in marketing may have an idea about better client care.  Set up a meeting with some people in sales to discuss the details.  A salesperson who has suggestions from their clients about billing should feel free to have a creative meeting with accounting.

“Cross fertilization” with departments that don’t usually work together can grow some great ideas.

Have fun with it

Work can become too serious and stifling.  A relaxed worker is a worker open to inspiration. When employees are relaxed at work, they feel free to be creative.

  • Don’t be afraid to incorporate humor into the workday.  Don’t frown on employees who talk and laugh together during the workday.  Allow them to watch that cat video or tell the funny story about their kid.  A relaxed worker is a happy and creative one.
  • Have fun at work. Retreats, games, and team-building activities have an important role in fostering creativity in the workplace.  These activities encourage teamwork.  They also create a relaxed environment that will boost creativity in your office.
  • Check out the research:
    • Studies have shown that a positive mood makes people better thinkers.  Allow positivity and fun at your office if you want to foster creativity in the workplace.
    • A Gallup poll on the state of the American workforce showed that more than one-third of the American workers feel too much on-the-job stress. Stressed-out employees who are not allowed to have fun at work are not innovative or inspired thinkers.

Turning Creativity into Productivity

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You may wonder how committing to fostering creativity in the workplace will realistically make your workforce more productive.  Does it really work? The answer is yes.  Here’s how:

Creative thinking leads to innovation

  • “We’ve always done it this way” is the enemy of the creative thinker. The time you spend exploring a new, better way of doing something will lead to time saved later.
  • Fostering creativity in the workplace helps your business stay relevant. When your employees are free to think creatively, your company stays out of unproductive ruts.

Creativity helps employees see the big picture

  • Don’t encourage your employees to mindlessly tackling the same tasks over and over. Creative employees challenge themselves to see how their jobs affect the company as a whole.
  • You may think it’s best for employees to just churn out work.  But it’s actually better for workers to consider how their tasks can be improved or adjusted to accomplish the big-picture goal.

Creativity empowers employees

  • Creative employees recognize that they don’t have to robotically perform the same tasks.  Instead, they can make an impact for the business.
  • A worker who feels their ideas are valued is more motivated to produce. These employees know that the work they do is meaningful and that their ideas are unique.
  • When employees are empowered to be creative, they are emotionally invested. Invested employees take ownership of their role in making your business better.

A Creative Environment Can Reduce Turnover

Any business owner will tell you that one of their biggest challenges is finding and keeping committed, qualified employees.

An employee that is merely completing tasks, going through the motions of their job, and doing things “the way we’ve always done it” will be easily lured away. With all things equal, any employee would rather work for a company that provides a fun, creative environment.

When you retain good employees, you avoid spending countless hours searching for, interviewing, and training new candidates.

In the event that you do have a position to fill, remember that good employees from other companies will be attracted to a business committed to fostering creativity in the workplace, leaving you to take your pick from the most qualified candidates that suit your team’s needs.

Conclusion

As the boss, remember that employees will be more creative and productive if they feel that they can make an impact in their workplace, know that their ideas will be taken seriously, are not afraid to fail, and are free to have fun at work.

Fostering creativity in the workplace leads to increased productivity, innovation in your field, and employee retention.  Employees that are free to be creative are happy, loyal, invested employees.

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    LAWYER & ONLINE ENTREPRENEUR

    After graduating from law school and passing the bar, I struggled to find work, pay my bills, and make ends meet. That's when I decided to take control of my future and start working for myself. Now, several years and a handful of companies later, I'm sharing how I launched a successful business, and how you can do it too.

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