Fostering creativity is one of the most reliable strategies to drive business success.
An Adobe report found that 78% of companies that invest in creative initiatives are able to increase employee productivity. 73% of them are financially successful and 80% have satisfied customers.
Fostering team creativity empowers your employees to become innovative problem-solvers who are committed to your organization instead of workers who merely meet expectations.
Here are five actionable ways to foster workplace creativity.
1) Create a Space for People to Share Their Ideas
Numerous studies have found that traditional brainstorming meetings isn’t an effective way to generate lots of quality ideas because:
- Dominant personalities tend to overshadow creative people with quieter personalities.
- People struggle to flesh out their ideas since they spend the majority of the meeting listening to others.
- Some people won’t contribute because they’re either afraid of being judged for their half-baked ideas or they prefer to sit back and let everyone else do the work.
Instead of hosting brainstorming meetings, create a space (trello board, shared spreadsheet, wiki page, etc.) where your employees can submit their ideas as they think of them. Periodically meet with your team to review the ideas and decide if and how to implement them.
2) Support Employees’ Personal Creative Interests
Some roles don’t have a lot of room for creativity but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage your employees to be creative. Supporting your employees’ creative interests benefits your company by:
- Fostering employee loyalty. People are much more committed to companies when leaders care about them as a person instead of just about the results they produce.
- Improving work-life balance. Creative activities foster employees’ personal development and can be a great source of fulfillment outside of work.
At Prialto, one of the ways we support our employees’ creative interests is by highlighting people’s projects in our internal monthly newsletter and other communications.
Recently, one of our virtual assistants, Ed Delacion, wrote a book after suffering many years of writer’s block. We interviewed him and shared an excerpt from his novel to inspire other employees who are struggling with a lack of creative energy.
He told us “The best part of writing the book is realizing that my writer's block is finally over. I am not exaggerating when I say I've had writer's block for 7 years, I just couldn't find enough inspiration to write something. There have been attempts within those seven long years, but every single one of them went nowhere.”
Writing his book helped him achieve a greater work-life balance which made him more committed and focused at work. The support he received from his colleagues also encouraged him to continue writing.
3) Empower Employees to Fail Fast
One of the biggest barriers to workplace creativity is the fear of failure. Employees are so scared of the backlash for failing at something new that they never think far from the status quo.
To foster creativity in the workplace, you must abolish this fear and empower people to fail without retribution. Help them fail fast so that they can try new ideas without using too much time or resources. Here’s how:
- Encourage your team to share their creative ideas with you. As long as it’s not prohibitively expensive or your prior experiences indicate it’s extremely likely to fail, let them create an experiment to test their idea.
- Give them a limited amount of time and resources to run their experiments. If they need help turning their ideas into a brief experiment that will show if their idea has potential or not, coach them on ways to create a short-term version of their idea.
- At the end of the experiment, review the results with them. If it failed, you avoided a major failure. If it shows potential for success you can start planning a larger initiative.
Creating a process to fail fast fosters creativity in the workplace by empowering employees to try new ideas without fear of causing a major failure.
4) Require Them to Use Creative Problem-Solving
Creativity isn’t limited to generating innovative ideas and working on artistic projects. One of the most powerful types of creativity to foster in the workplace is problem-solving. Your team faces new challenges on a regular basis that hinder their efficiency. If the people on your team are not creative problem-solvers, they’ll deal with their issues in three ways:
- Constantly asking you for help.
- Wasting time trying to solve their issues using ineffective approaches.
- Ignoring the problem and trying to move on with their work.
All of these approaches waste time and tend to cause issues to get worse. To boost your team’s productivity, require them to use creative problem-solving. One of the easiest ways to teach them how is to constantly ask them why. Why did X happen? Why did you do X? Why is X behind schedule?
Why questions force people to think of the root cause of their problems. Once the causes are identified, it’s much easier to generate creative solutions. If they continue to offer generic answers, provide examples of what creative solutions look like and coach them on ways to think more creatively.
5) Encourage Your Team to Take Breaks
Tight deadlines often pressure employees to complete projects in a single sitting which limits their creativity. Research shows that when people take breaks while working on creative tasks, they come back with better ideas and are often able to finish their tasks faster.
Taking breaks from projects allows your subconscious to explore hidden connections and come up with ideas that you wouldn’t be able to if you wouldn’t be able to with your conscious mind.
Thus, encouraging your team to take breaks and work on projects in short bursts is one of the most effective ways to foster workplace creativity. To empower your team to do this successfully you need to:
- Give your team deadlines at least a few days in advance so they don’t have to rush through their tasks.
- Coach them on time management best practices so they can take breaks without falling behind.
Most importantly, you need to create a culture where feel empowered to stop working a let their minds wander for a few minutes throughout the day. Your team will more than make up for the lost time by generating creative solutions that enable them to achieve their goals faster.
About the Author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.