It is likely that the processes and procedures we use daily were generated by a creative idea. Having an open workplace where employees can use their imagination to improve processes, not only enables the company to progress, but also can personally benefit the employee’s career progression.
However, the biggest setback for creativity at work, is that many employees are analytically minded in their role and have never been enabled to think creatively. Roles in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields generally tend to be more technical, often requiring employees to follow strict policies and procedures.
According to a recent survey by Gallup, only 29% of workers strongly agree that they are encouraged to think and work creatively. When employees are motivated to think creatively, new processes can emerge, quality of work can improve and workflow may take shorter amount of time.
Here are five tips on how to encourage all employees at work to be creative, no matter what kind of role they are in.
Promote Testing and Acknowledge Failures
Creativity often brings failure. As a leader, it is best to acknowledge this, and support your employees if things don’t work out as expected.
If you give an employee a task where they encouraged to be creative and it does not work properly, avoid negative repercussions. Instead, provide constructive feedback and suggest analyzing their work to see what improvements can be made to make it better next time.
Testing new ideas and acknowledging failure is a main theme in Spotify’s yearly “Hack Week” event. This is a week where over 2,000 employees switch job roles and work on projects that they feel passionate about with an overarching goal. Problems are embraced and employees are encouraged to find new ways to solve them all while implementing them into their everyday work. This year’s event focused on being “greener” with work and employees were able to come up with new processes that reduced their carbon footprint.
If the employee succeeds the first time they compete a creative task, encourage them to continue thinking about the things that could be done to make it an even better process.
Creating new ideas and processes can be extremely beneficial for organizations, but they should be within company standards and guidelines. Providing your workers with communication and guidance on the values and goals of the company will allow them to have good understanding of this while also being able to step outside of the box.
If you simply tell your employees to ‘think more creatively at work’, this can cause ambiguity and confusion for employees. Setting guidelines, but also allowing flexibility is the best combination for letting focused, creative ideas come to light.
For example, you may have a process for your team that you feel is taking too long and can be completed more efficiently. Present this goal to your team and encourage them to think of ways to improve this process. By promoting this opportunity for input, employees may provide a new perspective and offer suggestions for improvement. Continually look for ways to provide goals for your team to keep them inspired and excited to contribute to the team in a new way.
When an employee or team at your company comes up with a brand-new idea or improvement of current processes, it should be celebrated and recognized. This can be done by personally congratulating the individual(s), sharing an email highlighting the great work they have done or even company-wide recognition at your next town hall event. These are all great gestures to celebrate and promote this achievement.
This positive reinforcement not only recognizes the employees that are going above and beyond for your organization, but also provides positive reinforcement for their ideas. For the employee personally, they will likely feel a sense of pride and connection to your organization.
Celebrating achievements also encourages the other workers to keep thinking creatively. If they see one of their colleagues being praised for their work, they may be more likely to go out of their way to think differently to also achieve that award or recognition.
Offer Training Opportunities
It is likely that not everyone your team is naturally creative. Your employees may need an extra push through training and development opportunities to bring out creativity. This training can be done via webinars, professional development courses and in-person collaboration with experts that are experienced in creative thinking.
For example, the Imperial College of London offers a free course called “Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success. This course includes a variety of techniques to think different with the world around you and presents a focus on how to think more creatively at work.
Offering training like this not only provides employees with an opportunity to start thinking in different ways, but it also can give them tools to make their work even better.
Set Aside Time and Space for Creativity
If you want to enable your employees to think creatively, you need to give them the ability to be able to do so. As a leader, you should recognize that this is not something that will happen overnight. You will have to allow your team time and space to come up with new ideas.
Unlike giving an employee a specific task that needs to be done at a certain time, creativity has no real deadline. There will be employees that are naturally creative and maybe have creative hobbies, but if you want to enable analytical employees to open their mind, you need to give them the room to do so.
Consider the ways in which you can encourage creativity for your team. This might include setting time aside in meetings to brainstorm ideas or setting up collaborative sessions with other departments. It may also include re-working your workspace to allow for collaboration and inspire creativity.
Many companies believe that having physically open and creative spaces in the office help encourage their employees to think more outside of the box. For example, Bumble offers a 1960s inspired workspace for in-office employees featuring comfy chairs and wide-open workstations. They also have designated “creativity” rooms that allow employees to let their minds flow on new ideas.
By thoughtfully setting aside time, and creating a space for creativity, you can make a proactive effort for process improvement and new ideas at your organization.
Creativity in the workplace will take time, but by being strategic in your efforts, you can enable your team to contribute to your organization in new ways.
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