Written for SeventeenHundred blog and newsletter
"I am not creative."
- Most adults
There's this amazing, beautiful thing about being a child. A lump of sand is a freshly baked cake. A pile of sticks in the park are magically transformed into three swords for you and your Musketeers. An old sheet becomes the house where you raise your teddy bear family. A combination of scribbles is a portrait of your mum.
But then we grow up (or some of us do at least). And colouring books are replaced with jam-packed diaries, crayons with ballpoint pens (blue or black ink only, please) and dreams of growing up to be a knight fighting dragons are squashed by a pile of bills and a dose of reality. Our imaginations are limited to which pair of shoes we will coordinate with our blazer. Our scribbles shift inside the lines, we stop asking questions for fear that we look silly or incompetent or that the answers are all too obvious.
Creativity was selected as the most important factor for the future success of businesses according to an IBM survey of more than 1500 CEOs across 60 countries and 33 industries. So then why are programs and activities that encourage creative thinking the first to go from schooling systems with budget cuts? And often the last to be thought of when seeking business solutions? People often think that creative thinking in their office should be left to the people on 'creative' teams, but if you have a brain, you are a creative. Creativity is not confined to the arts. There are a number of ways businesses can support and nurture a creative culture without splashing out big bucks on workshops and expensive programs.
Create a culture where a fear of failure doesn't exist
Idea generators and creative advertising agency Wieden and Kennedy have a saying, "fail harder". It is out of failure that some of the greatest innovations have been born. If the Wright brothers continued trying to make a plane fly with their first design, they wouldn't have been the first to flight. If you never fail then you never learn, so try everything until something works. And if something doesn't work, encourage your people not to settle and not to be afraid of failure. This attitude will help your team develop habits of commitment and application.
Create a collaborative environment
Allow and encourage team members to work together, question and brainstorm in a non-judgmental way. Play to the strengths of each person to position them for success. Create opportunities for your team to get to know one another; they will figure out positive team dynamics and grow more comfortable working together and sharing their ideas. This will also have the roll-on effect of increased workplace engagement and morale.
Encourage diversity of thought
Seek solutions from all members of your team. Set-up comment boxes, run surveys, encourage discussions. Learning and taking suggestions from a diverse range of people exposes your company to new ideas and solutions.
Reduce stress within your workforce
In a study of peoples' "Aha" moments of insight, it was discovered that if someone is too focused or wound up, their problem solving abilities are limited. By reducing stress levels companies will benefit from increased innovation. Open up a dialogue with employees so they feel comfortable approaching you about any external stress they are experiencing and be mindful of how their work environment could be creating stress.
Make and encourage time for creativity
With constant deadlines and endless task lists, appropriate time to brainstorm and nurture ideas is often pushed by the wayside. Make realistic timelines and allow employees time to process ideas, let them incubate without actively thinking of them and revisit to ensure the most effective solutions are met. Give them time to let their minds wander, go for a walk, sleep on it, take breaks. As they say, "Rome wasn't built in a day." Some ideas take time.
Celebrate great ideas
Many decisions are made each day and many ideas are thrown into the mix. Some of these ideas don't work and that's when you need to go back to the drawing board. But some of those ideas are amazing. Recognise these ideas and the people and teams who create them. Tell them why their ideas are great. Put them into practice. This is in all aspects, from the way people work, to the products they are working on, to thinking of creative ways to improve the workplace.
The most innovative and successful companies operating today began with a small team of individual thinkers and creators who supported each other's ideas; however "outside-of-the-box" they were. By valuing the uniqueness and talents of your employees and giving them the time, tools and space needed to allow ideas to grow - the possibilities are endless.