How to Foster Creativity in the Workplace
You don’t have to work in a “creative” industry to employ creativity in your organization. In fact, all companies can benefit from a culture of creativity. Providing a space that encourages employees to innovate, think outside the box and bring their full selves to work keeps teams from feeling stagnant, prevents processes from becoming stale, and promotes constant improvement.
Creativity is good for employee retention, productivity, and your bottom line. Here’s how to foster creativity in your workplace.
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Where Do I Start?
How do you train imagination? How do you coach innovation? It can feel like an elusive idea. We often think of creativity as something you either have or you don’t. But it’s that mindset that discourages people from pushing their mental limits and prevents managers from cultivating it.
In reality, all you really need to do here is provide the conditions that allow employees to flex their creative muscles. That means promoting expectations to be creative at work, providing time for creativity at work, and ensuring freedom to take the risks necessary for creativity.
These are cultural shifts that need to happen over time, through clear communication in policy and sustained practice across your organization. Here are some tangible ways you can begin to make these changes.
Introduce Creativity to the Workplace
This may sound basic, but when creativity and innovation aren’t expectations of the job, you have to introduce them as such. Here, it’s about starting a conversation. Consider small group trainings that underscore how the principles of creativity can be applied to individual roles, and encourage employees to explore their own ideas. It’s not about imagining the most fantastic story or painting the best picture. Everyone’s out-of-the-box thinking looks different and can contribute something valuable to the company.
HRDQ’s Breakthrough Creativity Profile is a great jumping off point. This learning tool assesses employees’ unique ways of thinking, reacting, and analyzing situations—then it categorizes them into one of eight “creative types.” Providing this sort of baseline training on the dynamics of creativity and equipping employees with the tools to understand their own creativity helps set the stage for a workplace where people feel empowered to contribute more of themselves.
Create Spaces for Exchange
People are most creative when they have the opportunity to engage with and be inspired by other people and ideas. So, make time and opportunities for sharing knowledge, interests, and ideas to get the creativity flowing. Creating space in this way functions on two levels:
- On the first level, it promotes employees exchanging personal creative interests. This could take the form of monthly creative team outings to art galleries or shows, lunch events where people share creative projects they’re working on, or creative happy hours, just to name a few ideas.
- On the second level, it’s about bringing the creative conversation back to the workplace. Tie creativity to the work employees are actually doing in order to foster innovation. Consider hosting monthly brainstorm meetings to solve employee-identified issues like process improvement, new product ideas—you name it.
When employees are empowered to be creative, feel comfortable sharing their ideas, and are energized with innovative freedom, you’d be surprised at the fresh and exciting ideas they can bring to the table!
This team-based interactive game improves the effectiveness of team and individual innovation skills, combining energy and fun with creativity and process improvement.
Walk the Talk
It’s great to promote, encourage, and make space for creativity in your workspace. But if you really want to get serious about cultivating a creative work environment, you also need to build it. White walls, symmetrical cubicles, and the drab silence of a typical office culture doesn’t do much to inspire fresh, new ideas.
Try painting the walls different colors. You don’t have to go with neon lights, but small pops of color can help brighten up the space and stimulate the brain. Another great way to encourage collaboration and the sharing of new ideas is to increase the amount of space for casual group conversations. Consider placing lounge stations with chairs or sofas throughout the office in addition to sprucing up your employee break room. And maybe even involve employees in an office redesign: challenge them to name conference rooms, encourage creative expression at desk space, and work to understand the features they’d find inspiring.
Another great idea to consider is the implementation of flexible sitting and working arrangements. A change of scenery can be necessary for some people to stay engaged and mentally motivated, so it’s helpful to provide the option of working elsewhere—whether that’s in a kitchen, a lounge space, a rooftop garden, etc. The more space and flexibility that employees have to engage with one another and work in a way that’s best for them, the more creative productivity you can see.
Creativity is an internal and individual process. While it’s incredibly hard to train someone to be creative, you can provide the right tools and conditions to encourage it in the workplace. By helping employees understand their own creative personalities, providing spaces for exchange, and creating an office space that inspires, you’re well on the way to a transformed creative organization.
For even more tools to help you foster creativity at work, explore the Creativity & Innovation Training Materials at HRDQ! We offer a full library of assessments, games, simulations, workshops, and more to help you get the creative juices flowing.