Forward thinking differentiates successful businesses from their peers, particularly in this era of technological breakthroughs happening at amazing speeds. You’ve heard of companies that used to be successful but failed to innovate and keep up with the times. Their eventual shutdowns are compelling reasons for other businesses to now put a premium on creativity in the workplace. After all, people learn not just from their own mistakes.
Creativity, however, isn’t something that can be turned on or off at will. It needs a breeding ground, an environment where it can be coaxed out of its shell. This article will tackle ten ways to improve creativity in the workplace.
1. Reward creativity
According to a 2014 article by Nathan Collins on the Pacific Standard, “when a reward follows an action, that action gets reinforced, and we’re more likely to take that action in the future.”
That is what positive reinforcement basically means, and it can be applied regardless of the time and place; at home when teaching kids right from wrong, at school when teaching students their lessons, or at work when encouraging customers to purchase more of your company’s products or services.
Thus, one effective way to encourage creativity in the workplace is through rewards. As MindToolsfurther notes, while it’s important to recognize workers for their efforts, it’s also equally important to appropriately reward them.
2. Embrace diversity
People who share the same ideas, have similar hobbies, or follow the same sets of guiding principles are likely to enjoy being part of the same team. Because they are alike in so many ways, they’re likely to agree on a lot of things as well. (Birds of the same feather, eh?)
On the other hand, when people of diverse backgrounds, creed, and experiences are brought together to make up a team, varying perspectives are injected into the same problem or situation. There are certain nuances only people exposed to a particular culture can understand. A product, or even a simple gesture, that’s acceptable to one culture can be offensive to another.
While diversity comes with its own string of growing pains, allowing diversity in an organization is allowing people to change the way they think, making them more creative, smarter, and more diligent, which means better decisions, more problems solved, and better business outcomes overall.
3. Eliminate negative feedback
People dislike negative people who never run out of things to complain about. While negative publicity is still publicity, brands, as much as possible, shy away from it. Negative reactions to an idea you think is too brilliant to keep to yourself can hurt. If you’re the type who has mastered the art of turning negativity into creative fuel, our hats off to you. But don’t expect everyone else to be like you.
Creative ideas are celebrated, yes. But prior to the celebration, they’re oftentimes met with protests. So why would an employee bother to pitch an idea if he/she already knows the idea will be met with negativity?
As Alex Osborn of BBDO in Your Creative Power famously put it, “Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it in the bud.”
4. Don’t frown upon anonymity
Anonymity is getting a bad rap, no thanks to entities so called the “keyboard warriors” and Internet trolls lurking behind public forums and social media channels to insult or bully unsuspecting users, or to simply spread negativity through spiteful and sarcastic comments.
But anonymity has its uses as well. While some employees revel in the glory, their brilliant ideas may bring them, some may not feel as strongly because they’re too shy, or afraid of retribution, real or imagined. Needless to say, suggestion boxes and anonymous tip lines have their uses.
5. Put up an idea board in the workplace or an idea repository on your website
Another way to coax creativity out of your employees is through a board where people can write just about anything. Remember, some great things spring from random, even offhand, ideas. For global teams, an idea repository within your company or team website can function in a similar manner.
6. Create a creativity-inducing ambiance
Happy, colorful images all around the workplace can trigger creative episodes. Ditch the dress code if it makes your employees happy, as, according to Dr. Rick Nauert (Psych Central), a “positive mood improves creativity.”
Even simple workspace tweaks can vastly help boost employee happiness at work. According to aHuff Post article by Liz Wilkes, such tweaks can include office colors, natural versus artificial lighting, scents, potted plants on desks, room temperature, office layout, and ergonomics.
7. Run contests
This tip follows through #1. The success of crowdsourcing websites is partly through contests participated in by numerous people from various parts of the world. The same can be enforced within your company.
The prize doesn’t always have to be monetary. For example, if your company needs names for certain rooms in a new office location, actually using the chosen names is sometimes reward enough for the person/s who took the time to come up with goofy, unique, or “whatever fits your criteria” names. While the effort doesn’t come with a cash equivalent, the bragging rights are definitely theirs.
8. Be creative with your brainstorming sessions
If you’re after innovation, imposing board-room-only team meetings entails missing out on the possible creativity-inducing effects of brainstorming sessions in parks, cafes, or some off-the-cuff place.
As for brainstorming techniques, below are a few articles listing several of them:
9. Use collaborative mind-mapping tools
Whether used in a collaborative setting or not, mind-mapping tools like Mindmeister.com and Coggle help users visualize and organize their thoughts through associations, images, and icons, enabling them to remember more and unleash their creativity.
10. Create swap days
Swapping jobs with other people makes you aware of the challenges they face, the difficulties their jobs entail, and the perspectives that sometimes push them to act in a certain way. According to the You Earned It blog, “creativity thrives on connections, changed perspectives, and synchronicity.”
Creativity is no longer just for creatives – e.g., writers, painters, musicians, or composers. With the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of similar products and services vying for market share, differentiation is key to standing out from the crowd. And because more heads are better than one, cultivating an atmosphere that values creativity is the first step towards an innovation-driven workplace culture.
Yasmina Yousfi is Cloudswave‘s CBDO. She works closely with the rest of the team to find new marketing strategies and business development models.