Depending on the industry you work in, you may not believe there is a place for creativity in your workplace. Creativity may be associated in your mind with writing and film-making, or marketing; maybe you work in a cubicle-land where it seems the extent of creativity is who has the coolest desk decorations or who wears the cleverest costume for the Halloween party. Creativity goes beyond artistic expression and, honestly, it has a necessary space in every work environment.
Creativity isn’t just about visuals; it’s about problem-solving, collaboration and so much more. As Barbara Dyer writes for Fortune Magazine, “creativity is rapidly shifting from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ quality for all types of successful organizations.” Huge companies like Google are embracing the value of creativity with strategies like Google’s 20 % policy; under this strategy, employees are allowed to allocate 20% of their work days to passion projects, essentially. They can spend this time on projects that are not their primary project at the moment. This is the type of environment where innovation and advancement thrive. And it shouldn’t just be limited to massive corporations like Google.
When creativity is allowed, encouraged and rewarded for work, your business and employees will have the best chances at growing and succeeding tremendously. Fostering a creative work environment boosts your chances for success, whether that be from finding the next million dollar idea or figuring out how to maximize efficiency for the morning coffee rush at your coffee shop. There are ways you can nourish the creativity in your company, drawing out and expanding the creativity that already exists and finding new and more creativity than you ever imagined could be there.
First of all, staff your business with diverse employees. This can be up to your discretion, of course, but the expression that two heads are better than one is better augmented to state that two different heads are better than one. The point of having multiple inputs is to bring in different experiences, different ways of seeing the world and thinking about it, different methods of problem-solving or imagining; with a solid level of diversity in your employees, you’ll maximize your chances of finding unique, imaginative and successful solutions or projects.
Next, you should encourage and welcome creativity on all levels in your business. You may want to structure this in a way that respects hierarchies and channels within your organization; but, an employee isn’t going to embrace their potential creativity fully if they don’t feel safe to do so. Depending on their position, an employee may come in believing that their job is their job and that is the end of it; if they know that creativity, problem-solving, what have you are welcome, even from entry-level workers, then they are more likely to be looking for areas where they can exercise their own creativity and bring creative ideas to the table. Make yours a safe environment for thinking out of the box and taking risks (within reason). This is similar to the idea mentioned above at Google; figure out how to allow and embrace creativity in your specific organization and let it be known that it is welcome and wanted.
You should also reward creativity. Again, work with your managers or team members or whomever to figure out how to officially strategize this for your company. Find ways to further encourage and welcome creativity by rewarding it when it happens. This can be anything from a public announcement to a bonus, so long as it lets all of your employees know that the creativity is valued and appreciated. On top of that, make sure that the structures are in place so that employee creativity can be put into action when appropriate; even if an employee suggests something you and your team are uncertain about, experimenting temporarily with a new idea could open the door for even more creative solutions and ideas as well as showing your employees that their suggestions are taken seriously and truly welcome. If there is no reward or process for putting suggestions and ideas into action, then there is little to no motivation for employees to continue exercising their creative muscles.
Implementing multiple outlets for creative contribution should also be considered. Sometimes people come up with their best ideas when they don’t feel pressured to put their name on it or announce it in front of their teammate; this is one way to make the creative process a so-called safe space. There is risk involved in making suggestions, especially as a lower-level or new employee. Allowing for anonymous or private suggestions will boost your employee’s confidence in finding their creativity and continuing to work with it. That being said, sometimes creativity flourishes most when a team effort is involved. Getting those multiple, diverse heads together to work out the kinks in an idea hypothetically before a full plan is laid out and attempted. Figure out a way to implement creation meetings or problem-solving get-togethers regularly, whether in a free-for-all manner where you throw a lot of random ideas out there or in a structured manner where a specific problem is looking to be solved. You’ve hired diverse employees which mean that they work differently; some will thrive through anonymous or private suggestions and others will thrive working with the creative juices of their team-mates. One isn’t superior to the other and you should find ways to benefit from all of the possible ways that people best create.
Find ways to allow flexibility for your employees as well. I always say happy employees mean a happy business (I also say happy customers mean a happy business—they all go hand-in-hand because happy employees mean happy customers…see?). Find ways that work for your overall business needs to allow schedule flexibility; this could include allowing employees to work from home, or work on weekends if they’d rather have weekdays off. Of course, every business varies and your coffee shop, for example, may not allow for certain types of flexibility; but, if there is flexibility to be found, your employees and your business will benefit from it. Further, breaks have been shown to boost not only creativity but also productivity. Granted, you don’t want employees slacking off all the time; but, allowing short breaks and even encouraging them could benefit everyone in the long-run. Barbara Dyer in that Fortune article put it this way: “Creativity thrives in an environment of disciplined chaos.” While this may sound terrifying, she goes on to explain that the discipline involves strategic observation, looking at a problem or project from every angle in order to know it well enough to solve it in the most creative way. Then, once the observation has occurred, the chaos involves the creativity phase, or invention: “Invention entails freedom to run in multiple directions, often at once.”
Strategize well in order to allow your employees and team members to come up with every possible solution or idea and you’re sure to see massive benefits no matter what industry you’re in!