While technical skills and academic knowledge are important in the workplace, the success of any company or organisation is also critically dependant on the capacity of its workers to think creatively. Creativity is often thought of as being associated only with the arts, but in reality it is essential to problem-solving and staying flexible, relevant and competitive in any industry (See: Why creativity is absolutely crucial in the workplace on Fortune).
These tips for developing creativity in the workplace can help to foster a culture of employee engagement, productivity, and innovation.
1. Make Your Workspace Comfortable and Inviting
Try to create conditions likely to inspire! Making sure the physical setup of your workplace isn’t a source of stress or discomfort can be the first step. Having access to large open space and windows with ample natural light may not always be possible, but comfortable furniture, artwork, and plants can also help people to feel generally more relaxed, productive, and creative (See: Nature by Design: the Practice of Biophilic Design on Human Spaces).
2. Provide Stimulation
Creativity is often about knowing how to bring together disparate things or concepts in an interesting way that works but isn’t obvious – a skill that is very useful in problem solving or trying to develop innovative products. Having some sensory stimulation such as wall art or unobtrusive background music in your workplace can provide subtle stimulation and inspiration (See: 5 Ways to Inspire Creativity in Your Employees on Entrepreneur).
3. Do Away With Unnecessary Procedures
Of course some procedures are always necessary for people to remain organised and work according to specifications. However, excessive procedure can be stifling and inefficient. More autonomy will give team members the trust, confidence, and freedom to find new ways of working that improve on legacy processes (See: Secret Productivity Killer: Too Many Rules in the Workplace on HuffPost).
4. Encourage Brainstorming and “What if?” Questions
All creative processes start with a kernel idea that is allowed to grow through imagination, exploration, questioning, trial and error. Constantly trying to improve your ideas and products by asking questions is an important creative thinking habit! (Source: Think Jar Collective). Workplaces should encourage their team members to brainstorm both in their individual work and collaboratively as a way of working through problems and coming up with new ideas (See: 7 Techniques for More Effective Brainstorming on Wrike)
5. Try Exploring Problems in Alternative Ways
Often when presented with a challenge, we get stuck in one way of thinking. Get a problem “out of your head” by using a different medium. Making a list, diagramming, brainstorming visually on paper or a whiteboard, or talking things through with a colleague can be useful ways to approach problems from a different angle and find creative solutions! (See: How to use mind mapping to unlock team creativity on Sandglaz).
6. Promote Diversity & Teamwork
When people of different backgrounds, interests, and experience work together they can learn from each other and combine their unique skills and experiences in unexpected ways. Encourage interaction between employees who might not otherwise work together (See: 9 Diversity Factors That Will Increase Team Creativity on Inc.).
7. Introduce Some Creativity to Your Meetings
Try using a suggestion box or having a system where everyone gets a turn to speak. That way, discussions won’t always be dominated by the same people and you’ll get to hear ideas from less outgoing team members. Experiment with presenting using different media such as slideshows, video, or infographics. Hold meetings in different places occasionally, just to break from established habits and introduce a change of pace! (See: DesignFloat for more creative meeting ideas)
8. Use “Sprints” To Focus Team Energy
Try sprint sessions: a set amount of time where the whole team works collaboratively on a project free from distractions. This will solidify links within the team and allow people to have the experience of focusing their creative energy into achieving something meaningful with their colleagues. (See: How To Conduct Your Own Google Ventures Design Sprint on Co.Design)
9. Reward & Encourage Creativity
Encourage team members to feel comfortable sharing new ideas and making suggestions about how things could be changed or improved. You may even go as far as setting up a formal employee suggestion program (See: Harness the Power of an Employee Suggestion Program on The Balance). Listening to people’s ideas and taking them seriously (even if they aren’t ultimately implemented), and making it clear that this is valuable to the organisation will encourage a more creative workplace culture in which people regularly generate and share ideas. (See: 5 Ways to Inspire Creativity in Your Employees on Entrepreneur.com)
10 Don’t Forget To Have Fun!
Host fun events and activities for your team to participate in, get to know each other, and build trust. Feeling the freedom to have lighter moments with colleagues, share a joke, or discuss outside interests will allow for a more playful and creative workplace!
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