Digital agency AKQA's Rei Inamoto wrote a few years ago that, "Creativity and innovation are about finding unexpected solutions to obvious problems or finding obvious solutions to unexpected problems. We should use our creativity to provide better businesses and solutions rather than constantly trying to disrupt what people are doing."
Indeed, not coming up with an idea that solves a big enough problem, or in an innovative enough way, is one of the most common big mistakes that many business owners and managers make these days.
No matter the type of industry you're in, creativity should be a part of your everyday practices. New ideas, or unexpected combinations of ideas, can help you grow your brand, create hot new products and services, land more customers, get more referrals, entice investors, and much more.
However, for many leaders, working out how to foster creativity in the workplace can be a difficult task. If you're having trouble generating an environment of creativity, here are some simple, yet effective, ways though that you can help your organization to come up with innovations that will rocket your business into the future. Read on for three ways you can get the creativity "muscle" working better in the future in your company.
The first step to encouraging creativity in the workplace is to be supportive. Employees need to feel that their creative ideas will not just be heard, but also encouraged, listened to, and rewarded. They need to feel safe enough to take risks in their thinking and suggestions, and know that they won't be penalized for thinking outside the box or trying new things. Risk-taking is a necessary part of creative thinking, and managers should understand that not all ideas will always pan out.
Staff members should be shown that they're valuable members of the team and that their creative ideas will be responded to enthusiastically, or at the very least able to aired freely. If people worry that offering suggestions might make them feel foolish or be rebuked, they simply won't try to come up with new angles on problems or new ways of growing the business.
To really encourage employees to be creative, it pays to reward innovative thinking too. Teams can be motivated with awards, freebies, recognition, bonuses, and many other types of rewards for coming up with new ways of doing things.
Sometimes, though, the best support is actually to act on some ideas which have been presented. This shows staff members that their suggestions are taken seriously and given the time and resources required to be implemented. After all, people instinctively try harder if they can see that what they do leads to change and that their ideas can be brought to market in the future.
Encourage Different Work Practices
Another great way to foster creativity is to encourage teams to incorporate different work practices than they're used to. This can take various forms, such as working in different locations (perhaps employees can work from home occasionally, take a corporate retreat to brainstorm new ideas, or just work in alternate areas of the office), or working with people from other parts of the business or even from outside it all together.
Creating diverse teams, whereby you assemble groups of people who don't usually collaborate (known as "cross-fertilization") usually always helps to spark innovative ideas. These teams should contain people who come from different backgrounds, different areas of the business or the industry, and who have varying strengths and weaknesses. Give everyone on this team equal input and say into how the project or brainstorming sessions run, and let them learn from, and encourage each other.
You might like to try out short-term job swaps as well, as people working in a role that's new to them can often see potential problems or new solutions that those there day in and day out just don't notice. In addition, it pays to look outside the business, at other sectors, to come up with ideas that work for other organizations that might also work in-house.
Use Effective Techniques
There are also various creativity techniques which can be utilized to help teams come up with innovative ideas and solutions in the workplace. One great way to do this is through brainstorming. Encourage staff members to get together in groups of at least two or more on a regular basis to bounce ideas off each other. Remind each participant that there are no silly ideas in a session, as the idea is to get as creative as possible; going to the "edges" or beyond of rational thought is often the best way to do this.
In a brainstorming session it often pays to put certain limits in place to help foster innovation, as constraints can actually help people to think more laterally. For example, if a team is working on coming up with new product ideas, they could be given a variety of constraints to work with like "only items made from recycled materials" or "only things that weigh less than a pillow."
Such limitations (and this can get as specific or strange-seeming as you like) can help the brain to think in new ways and help teams to come up with ideas that normally wouldn't be considered when given a broader scope.