If you have ever any spent time with children, you know that they are some of the most creative people around. They have active imaginations, enjoy pretending and role-playing, and for the most art are unafraid to try new things.
Then, as author and educator Ken Robinson points out in one the most viewed TED Talks, all of that is lost when children go to school and are forced to adopt rules and follow a structure that ultimately quells creativity.
As we transition into adulthood, we shift to spending time and energy trying to tap into our lost creativity, with productivity hacks to clear out important work and misguided routines we believe will spark innovation.
The truth is that encouraging an environment conducive to creativity does not require us to try new things -- is just requires us to remember back to a time when we were really creative.
Here are a few office tips you can try while promoting a more creative workplace. (Disclosure: I have a working relationship with the source of many of these tips, my children).
1. Prepare with right mood.
How an office is set up has a significant psychological impact on employees. Select bright and encouraging colors, plan a layout that encourages collaboration, and even consider the type of music you play in the background. You don't need to spend a great deal of time or money to be effective, as more often than not simple works best.
2. Enforce a process.
If most of your team members are adults -- and I will assume they are -- then change can be an uncomfortable adjustment. You will, therefore, need to create and enforce some general rules or guidelines for encouraging creative activities. By setting expectations that creativity is important -- and encouraged -- you will also help reduce the fear of failure or looking foolish, as is often associated with the creative process.
They can't fail, after all, if creativity is a rule, right?
These rules and guidelines do not need to be complicated or even permanent. Consider starting with something simple like a "Friday Game Day" or "Bag Lunch and Finger Painting Thursday" just to get the doldrums out.
3. Start with "Yes."
When children interact in a group, you will notice that they tend to join in with friends' games and situations and often will try to improvise and add to them. It is similar to a rule comedy improvisational groups call, "Yes and."
The process of generating unique and meaningful ideas is no different. Creating a safe environment in which team members can free-think and take risks will lead to new ideas, and while some will inevitably be bad or ridiculous, allowing them to use all ideas to spark new ones is the best way to create more unique and relevant ideas.
4. Put aside productivity parameters.
Managers are responsible for productivity, but the creative process can at times be anything by productive. Any creative will tell you that "ah-ha" moments cannot be planned and instead are products of different stimuli and an ongoing practice.
If you want to encourage creativity, you need to try your best not to look at the productivity of the process, but rather measure it in terms of other metrics, such as employee satisfaction or number of ideas generated.
5. Consider tactile experiences.
Activities that require your team to engage physically, such as building things or running competitions, excites different parts of your brain and stimulates blood flow. At the least, start creative sessions with icebreakers or team building exercises just to get warmed up.
6. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Creativity, like any process or skill, requires practice. You should not expect the first few creative sessions to do great, especially if it is an entirely new process for your team. Instead, consider a schedule that eases your team into a creative routine, where they slowly lower their inhibitions and remove paradigms while regularly engaging in creative activities.
Just like a new running routine would not start with a 20K, but rather a regular schedule of runs over time to build endurance. The creative process should be looked at the same way.
Regardless of how you go about it, just understand that creativity and innovation require as much time, energy and patience as any process in your business -- and in some situations, more so.
More important, while your team may have a variety of backgrounds, degrees, and experiences, they all share one thing in common -- everyone was a kid at one point in their lives and for a relatively similar amount of time. You just need to tap into that reservoir of experience.
As Picasso once said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
What do you think? How have you developed an environment that encourages more creative processes? Please share your thoughts with others on social media at @PeterGasca.