Creativity shouldn’t be an afterthought in the workplace. Yet it’s often ignored because it’s hard to measure and quantify. Here’s the thing, though: Encouraging creativity from your people engages them—and makes them more productive as a byproduct. When you welcome contributions and ideas, people feel valued and are less likely to look for another job. In fact, if you don’t actively support creativity in the workplace, you are stifling it. And that’s harmful not only to the engagement of your people, but also to the competitiveness and staying power of your business.
Creativity is not just art, music, and dance. It’s not just a “leisure time” term, either. More and more organizations these days are recognizing that fact. It’s about solving problems and noticing opportunities. And it should be factored into development programs and nurtured as a vital workplace skill. Here are a few tips for fostering creativity in your workplace.
Create a welcome environment.
Give creativity a place to thrive. If a creative idea begins as a seed, then be the fertile ground that helps it grow. Make your culture one of growth, forward momentum, and openness. Inspire and make room for play in the work day. Be flexible; creativity doesn’t always happen with strict rules. On the contrary, the best ideas come when there’s freedom to have them.
Make time for it.
Often, even when creativity is expected in the workplace, there is no time allotted for it. Schedule it in to work times (just not too rigidly). When people are focused on completing tasks and giving concrete results 100 percent of the time, they won’t have time to dream up powerful ideas that could make positive impacts on business.
Creativity may start with a single idea from a single mind, but it’s most dynamic when that idea can be bounced around a group of unique individuals with different perspectives. Collaborative ideas have permission to evolve beyond what was thought possible. This also means you should be diversifying your teams. Hire people with different approaches to problem solving, different backgrounds, and different ways of doing things.
Welcome risk and failure.
Playing it safe won’t serve you well when it comes to staying relevant. Risk and failure have to be welcome and invited in. When people are afraid to mess up or be wrong, they won’t speak up at all. Opportunities will be missed. Successes should be praised, but so should efforts that don’t necessarily end in success. Ideas should be rewarded, too. Learning from failure should be encouraged. Give permission for thinking up wild ideas, and don’t reject them just because they come with challenges.
Give it direction.
Creativity often comes when you care about an outcome in some way, so communicate upper level strategy, vision, values so people feel invested. Give direction and goals, so that there is purpose. But don’t micromanage the process. Simply give a place to channel the ideas.
Ask for it.
If you aren’t known for being receptive to new ideas, no one will want to give them. Therefore you must be known for inviting creativity and modeling it yourself. Ask people to share ideas when they see a problem and have a solution to offer. And communicate when there are unseen problems in need of that creative solution.
The bottom line: Creativity is good for everyone. Your organization stays relevant and competitive. Your people develop, grow, and stay engaged. You create a synergistic relationship between your business and its people in which there is commitment, loyalty, and a wealth of ideas ready to take flight.
“Flaming enthusiasm, backed by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.” ― Dale Carnegie