Creativity is one of the most crucial factors to long-term business success. A company that fails to innovate and adapt may very soon find itself obsolete, while those that evolve and diversify can tap into profitable new markets.
In fact, according to research by Adobe and Forrester, creative companies – those that encourage creative perspective, practices, and culture – outperform in both revenue growth and market share. Nearly 60% of respondents from creative companies said their revenues have strong growth (10%+ year-on-year), vs. only 20% of less-creative firms. And creative companies are 50% more likely to report a commanding market leadership position over competitors.
So, how do you infuse creativity into your company culture and stir up a stale working environment? Check out these 10 ways to unleash your team’s creativity (and reap the benefits).
Get everyone involved
Good ideas are not limited to senior managers; creative suggestions should be sought from everyone, right down to the intern (seeking the views of the younger team members is especially important if you want your company to be viewed as ‘in touch’).
Multi-department brainstorming sessions can also give rise to some fresh thinking – don’t pigeon hole your employees, just because someone works in marketing, doesn’t mean they can’t contribute a point of view on customer service, for example.
Revamp your workspace
Take a look at your office –does it inspire? Bare white walls, bland office furniture, stark lighting – none of these things are conducive to creative thinking. Try injecting some colour, add striking artwork, vibrant plant life and introduce different textures with rugs, beanbags and cushions to contrast against the hard lines of desks and filing cabinets.
Try to dedicate some space to relaxing, chilling out or even having a bit of fun – how many people want to work at Google HQ just because of the slide between floors?! Check out these cool workspaces for inspiration.
Change things up
If your team has reached a creative stalemate, try mixing things up a bit. Maybe have a reshuffle, moving one department in with another, so they can collaborate more easily. Or change the way people work by allowing them to use their computer standing up by installing some raised desks.
Perhaps you could introduce flexible working hours or allow some working from home? Giving people greater freedom and autonomy over how they organise their working day can be all that’s needed to get them thinking differently.
Give people new roles or responsibilities
Let people rise to the challenge by empowering them with new responsibilities. You could ask individuals to undertake research projects (such as investigating how competitor companies are utilising social media or demonstrating excellent customer service) and report back with their findings.
Alternatively place people into task forces and ask them to work together to tackle a particular issue, such as ‘how can we improve our website?’ or ‘how could we streamline our business?’. Teams should be made up of people from across the company and not only those that usually work together.
Have an away day
A motivated team is more likely to be a creative team, so why not organise a team building day? Take your team off-site and take part in an activity that requires both lateral thinking and teamwork, such as building a raft, or creating and filming a commercial.
The change of scenery a day like this provides, combined with the opportunity to bond with co-workers, can lead to a marked boost of energy once your team gets back in the office.
Create a safe space
To really encourage creativity it’s vital that your employees are not afraid to voice their ideas. Host regular free-form meetings and make it clear that out-the-box thinking is welcome and no idea will be immediately shot down.
Some, less outspoken, people may still feel too shy to speak out so you could introduce an ideas wall, for people to pin their thoughts on. Alternatively, try a suggestion box, where staff may make suggestions anonymously, if they so wish.
Give them time to think
No one can think creatively if their workload is so heavy they have no time to stop and ponder. Follow the lead of Google, which has a ’20 Per cent Policy’ allowing developers to spend 20% of their working hours each day on side projects.
Designed to give staff the time and space to think innovatively, the policy has led to some of the best products of Google (such as Google News).
Approach problems positively
Very often companies facing problems will resort to berating staff, asking “why aren’t you doing this?” or “who is responsible for this?”. Unfortunately this often leads to employees becoming demotivated and disengaging and does not result in the surge of creativity necessary to get things back on track.
A far better way to handle an issue that needs to be tackled is challenging staff to solve the problem. Taking a positive stance you might say “who can come up with a great idea to turn this around?” or “what could we do differently/better?”. This way you encourage staff to take ownership of the issue and feel motivated to find solutions.
Some companies inspire bursts of creativity using exciting perks (for example, Google regularly invites famous people like Lady Gaga to the office for lectures), while others put up money and resources.
Software company Adobe introduced a programme called “KickBox,” which gives employees who participate a red box containing $1,000 on a pre-paid credit card with a step-by-step process to originate an innovative new concept. They then use that money to validate their concepts. No proposal. No committees. No approval. They just do it.
Nothing squashes creativity like a risk-averse corporate culture. In addition to showing you’re listening to your employees’ ideas, you must be willing to put your money where your mouth is and actually commit to some of them – even if that means taking a risk.
At the core of creativity is doing something new; something untested and unproven. Show staff you’re willing to experiment with new ideas and you will breed innovation in your organisation.
Creativity should come from the top down. By creating an environment that fosters blue sky thinking your business will be better equipped to solve problems faster.
Meanwhile, employees will feel more valued and more integral to the business by adding their own creative stamp to the company’s legacy.
How have you inspired creativity in your team? Let us know!