Cultivating creativity in your workplace
21st Century teams need to innovative to thrive, now perhaps more so than in any time in history. Whether it’s adapting a whole workflow for home working, evolving a corporate culture to enable an open dialogue on mental health, or ultimately simply keeping pace with the competitive marketplace.
Leaders are expected to be able to think creatively and offer innovative solutions to challenges such as these on a daily basis. But often corporate development programs leave gaps when it comes to up-skilling on creativity. Equally where programs do exist these might focus on the upper echelons of leadership, where often the richest ideas come from harnessing the creative abilities of the whole team, ensuring the knowledge of the collective and unique perspectives are leveraged fully.
There’s a tonne of literature showing the specific benefits of creativity in the workplace
Some examples include:
- Better teamwork and team bonding;
- Increased workplace engagement and interaction;
- Improved ability to attract and retain quality employees;
- Increased staff morale, fun and happiness; and
- Increased workplace problem solving and productivity.
So how do I cultivate creativity in my team?
Here are 6 tips from us at MasterPeace based on Teresa Amabile‘s research, outlined in her celebrated book ‘How to Kill Creativity’
- Creativity likes… a curious challenge: your team will love the intellectual curiosity of a challenge that speaks to their core skills and feels achievable. But too much challenge can lead to overwhelm so careful to make the goalposts realistic.
- Creativity likes… empowerment: Leaders can outline a challenge, but your team will thrive when you let them decide how to go about solving that problem. If your team feels powerless to make change happen, or that their bosses may unwittingly stamp out ideas that challenge a norm, the creative fire will burn out.
- Creativity likes… constraints most of the time: setting a deadline or a budget can often stimulate creativity as your team works through handling those constraints, but tred carefully. False or impossible constraints will damage trust and could lead to burnout. So be honest and realistic about what the constraints are, and don’t move the goalpost.
- Creativity likes… a little drama: your team needs diversity of thought (which often comes from a diversity in background, race, gender, skillset, tenure and so on). Homogenous teams might argue less but they are often less creative. The best ideas often come from the furnace of a little constructive conflict.
- Creativity likes… a safe space: the key word above was ‘constructive’. Conflict is good, but judgement and shaming are not (real or perceived). Your team will thrive when they feel they’re safe to share off the wall ideas, and equally safe challenging assumptions and disagreeing – regardless of their seniority (or indeed the seniority of whomever they are challenging). Positively affirm creative thinking for creativities sake, as well as the ideas that are taken forward. And evaluate those ideas hard and fast: painfully slow review processes will take the wind out of their creative sails.
- Creativity likes… to feel welcome: the whole organisation needs to genuinely embrace a culture of creativity. Not just the immediate leadership, but the whole system. That means free and fast information sharing. That means genuine collaboration and not political game playing. When your team believes that your organisation welcomes their creativity sincerely, that’s when the magic happens.