According to a 2012 survey by Adobe, 80 percent of workers in the US and UK indicate they feel pressured to be productive at work instead of creative. These are troubling results for several reasons, not the least of which is that the two options should not be mutually exclusive.
When creativity is paired with productivity, innovation occurs. At our company Amerisleep, we rely on our employees' ideas and their ability to turn those suggestions in actionable solutions in order to produce smarter products, provide more attentive customer service and improve employee engagement.
Below are ways leaders can develop their own creative abilities and help their team do the same.
Create a strategy for acting on your team's creative ideas.
Brainstorming is a worthy activity, but if you want to improve your creative skills you have to move beyond simply suggesting ideas. Improved creativity will only pay dividends when you have a way to harness it, and that involves developing action plans.
Once you have explored the viability of an idea and it moves beyond the brainstorming stage, you must be ready to commit resources towards its execution. When your team members see their ideas manifesting into real solutions, they'll feel even more motivated to nurture their creativity.
Lead by questioning rather than dictating.
A willingness to question conventions is a common trait among highly-creative people.
In a business setting this has to start at the top, and as a leader you must encourage your team members to reimagine processes and results by doing so yourself. As they observe your eagerness to produce new processes by asking questions, they will be more inclined to apply this type of thinking to their own experiences.
Reduce the importance of hierarchy when it comes to creative thinking.
Great ideas can come from anywhere, and a creative spark that originates from a senior-level manager is no more important or potentially viable than one proposed by a front-line employee.
Creative thinking is everyone's domain. You'll want to ensure that each staff member's ideas will be considered regardless of their title or position.
Erase the stigma of failed ideas.
People hold ideas back because of fear. It doesn't matter whether it's rooted in the judgment of others, a lack of confidence in their own abilities or some unconscious force buried deep in their psyche. The only way to fight back against this inclination is to work to erase the stigma of failed ideas.
Failure is one of the most important parts of creating and running a business, and each undertaking brings important lessons that can be used to guide future success. This is no different when it comes to creativity.
You and your team members must feel free to take risks and suggest unconventional strategies if you want to facilitate creative thinking. Foster an environment where ideas that don't pan out aren't tied to performance reviews or compensation, and live by the value that everyone will have ideas that don't work, even the most creative people.