Creativity is often associated with artistic pursuits, but it’s a skill that has become increasingly important in the workplace, regardless of the field. Creative employees can think outside the box and develop innovative solutions to the problems businesses face daily. However, many companies are not taking the necessary steps to ensure creativity is fostered in the office. In fact, many places of work actively discourage creative thinking — intentionally or otherwise.
Leaders must take steps to ensure creative thinking is not only permitted but encouraged in the workplace. Fostering creative thinking helps drive innovative solutions, improves problem-solving and increases employee engagement and satisfaction. Let’s discuss a few proven methods that can help leaders build a more creative work culture defined by innovative thinking and problem-solving ability.
Lead Through Failure
This should come as no surprise: leadership plays a key role in allowing creativity to shine in the office. And as with any new initiative, leadership must show they are on board and leading the charge when it comes to creative outlets and innovative thinking. The point of leading by example is to show employees that leaders are not just pushing team members toward excellence — rather, they are actively demonstrating excellence and building a safe space for creative efforts. To do this, leaders must embrace challenges and encourage employees to fail upwards.
Failure is simply inevitable when a new initiative is started, and it’s only natural for employees to drop the ball occasionally. Leaders who are serious about cultivating a culture of innovation and creativity should understand that failure can be a positive in many situations. After all, Rome was not built in a day, and most famous inventions were only possible after countless failed attempts.
Thus, it’s important for leaders to allow employees to make mistakes and learn from them; doing so will help everyone feel more comfortable sharing their out of the box ideas with colleagues. Leaders should also push employees to try new processes and take a few risks occasionally to ensure their current work processes are not going stale. The best part about trying new processes is you can always go back to the old methods.
Collaborate to Stimulate Growth
This step goes hand-in-hand with trying new things. When innovative ideas are encouraged, inter-team collaboration becomes more natural. This is important because silos between teams are a leading cause of information breakdown. For example, the sales and PR teams often have different ideas about what should be included in marketing materials. Disagreement on this front can lead to wasted time for all involved parties. This is why it’s important for leaders to allow for cross-team collaboration to help ensure that new, fresh ideas are being acted upon (and agreed upon).
Cross-team collaboration allows for teams to build on each other’s strengths while challenging each other to think outside of the box. Over time, this level of collaboration can stimulate creative ideas that help the company grow. Leaders can start encouraging collaboration by creating opportunities for cross-team discussions through communal workspaces. New forms of collaboration can happen naturally or through scheduled brainstorming sessions, bi-weekly team meetings and even a morning coffee chat with someone new.
Celebrate Every Success and Voice
Over the years, many studies have focused on how critical it is for leaders to foster a positive work environment. Most of these observations still ring true today, but leaders need to take it one step further by creating a sense of community where one person’s win is everyone’s win. Accomplishing this positive work culture can be as simple as the HR department sending out weekly employee shoutouts in the company newsletter. Or announcements about people-based changes like promotions can be tied back to the company’s overall success.
These announcements can be simple and still incredibly effective. For example, try something like this: “We would like to share [NAME] has been promoted to [NEW ROLE]! They have made an impact on [COMPANY NAME] by [X, Y AND Z]. In their new role, they will continue to help [COMPANY NAME] by [X, Y AND Z].” These simple posts can be a great motivator for employees and create a sense of community across the company.
Another way to foster creativity in the workplace is to encourage employees from different backgrounds to share their perspectives in a group setting. Today’s work environment is extremely fast-paced and unscheduled updates can easily slip through the cracks. Employees at every level and of all backgrounds should feel like they can share their ideas — even more so, they should feel their voice amplified by their employer. It’s important for leaders to provide employees with the opportunity to learn from each other in a safe, judgment-free environment where creativity can flourish.
The Bottom Line
Creativity is more than a trait that leads to a beautiful piece of art — it’s the foundation of growth within every company. Without creativity, no company would exist. This is why creativity should not only be encouraged but acted upon in every workplace setting. Start by attracting leaders and employees who are ready to make a difference. Then, encourage teams to collaborate with one another and find new and improved methods. And finally, celebrate every success within the organization. Creativity has the power to catapult your company forward, regardless of the industry. The only factor hindering creativity in the workplace is leaders’ lack of knowledge on how to foster it properly. But don’t fret. By using the foundations discussed above, creativity within your organization will skyrocket and ultimately help your company in countless ways.
Matt Thomas is the President of Indianapolis-based WorkSmart Systems, Inc., which he
founded in 1998. He is active with the National Association of Professional Employer
Organizations (NAPEO) and has dedicated more than 20 years to the PEO industry dating back
to his early career with industry leaders ADP and NovaCare Employee Services.