- Richard Chase
How to Foster a Work Environment that Encourages Creativity
The secret ingredient in the world’s most dynamic companies, workplace creativity, is one of the modern enterprises’ most sought-after and mysterious characteristics.
Here is a break-down of what you can do to encourage that imaginative flair.
The Creativity Effect
As leaders, it’s our job to unlock the potential of our workforce. We need every single individual component in the machine to work at maximum productivity.
That means finding a way to tap into people’s creative abilities. Without this, an employee can be little more than a shadow of their manager, neatly fitting into a role that someone else imagined for them. Never expanding beyond their position and, crucially, never expanding the potential of the company either.
When genuine creative engagement is facilitated, the team members’ full ability to move the company forward can be realized. No manager, CEO, or owner can ever see every angle. We need help. Our teams have the potential to illuminate our blind spots and bring ideas to the table that can change our company from the ground level and up.
Being the Employer that Employees Want
Creative people need creative outlets. Like a tree that’s bearing fruit they need and crave the ability to share what they have with the world. If you can be the employer that provides that, enabling open communication and an environment that allows for creative freedom then your battle to recruit and retain the best employees is already halfway won.
Management, Or, the Lack Thereof
Too often we can get caught up in the idea that when it comes to management—more is better. More incentives. More scrutiny. More, more, more. This idea could hardly be further from the truth. Besides, when it comes to fostering creativity and productivity, taking a hands-on approach can see us peddling backward fast. The fact is that we are never going to ‘manage people into creativity.’ To encourage creativity, we need to be the vigilant providers of space and freedom. We need to allow it, not create it.
Another important aspect is employees need to feel safe knowing that when they fail and make mistakes they won’t be punished. Genuinely creative processes are often riddled with errors. Try taking the approach that, ‘there are no bad ideas.’ Even an idea that didn’t work or couldn’t work is just a stepping stone towards one that will. When people are secure in this knowledge, they will be able to open up and explore their creative side.
Avoid the Temptation to Micromanage
In the pursuit of high standards, it’s a natural path to follow. However, micromanaging saps motivation and creativity by signaling that we don’t trust people’s work or their judgement. Ultimately, it indicates that we don’t respect them.
We have identified some solutions in order to avoid falling into the trap of micromanaging.
Take the time to learn people’s strengths and, if possible, re-allocate work accordingly. The better they are at their job, the less you will need to intervene.
Set clear performance goals. Clear objectives reduce the likelihood of mistakes that need correction.
Ensure that when feedback is required, it is positivity-lead. Never focus solely on the negative.
Get to know your team: Your journey towards a creative environment needs to be focused on your employees, not on your new ‘excellent management strategy.’ What inspires them? Motivates them? What didn’t they like about their previous jobs? What do they struggle with? Our goal should be to support, not manage.
Flatten the Hierarchy
To create a work environment that is less “top down” can have major effects on creativity. Allocate time specifically for staff to discuss new ideas with management and their co-workers and ensure that their ideas are not only being heard but also acted upon. Even if an employee may be low on the hierarchy, s/he may be able to provide valuable input and fresh ideas. A way to do this is to ask the management not to bring any of their ideas to the table and see what happens. Train them to listen, ask positive questions, and ensure that at least some of the concepts are enacted. A Gallup poll found that highly engaged teams yielded an average of 18% higher productivity.
Remember to Communicate
Exchanging ideas is critical. People have to feel that their opinions are heard in order to channel their ideas into creative solutions. This is an important aspect when fostering a creative work environment; organizations that communicate effectively are 450% more likely to keep their best staff. Make sure to facilitate a collaborative creative process and ensure that people never feel their ideas are falling on deaf ears. One study found that “99.1% of employees prefer a workplace where people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively.”