Encouraging creativity in corporate settings

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about how important it is for even the most traditional firm to be innovative and creative: just look at the volume of articles in Harvard Business Review in the past year as an indication. Creativity is a key way in which the firm can make sure it stays at the forefront of its market and retains top talent. However, in an industry that isn’t traditionally ‘creative’, it can be easier said than done. Firms talk the talk of ‘wanting their employees to be more creative’ but can’t always walk the walk. If this sounds a little like your company, don’t worry. There are lots of simple actions you can take very quickly to make sure that you are helping your firm to embark on a creative revolution.

1. Try to get disparate people working together

The research is conclusive on this: whilst people might not always feel their most comfortable in mixed-discipline settings, they can be absolutely brilliant for the types of cross-fertilisation that bring useful new ideas. This can range from informal mixers (with an emphasis on actually mixing, rather than just hanging out with your usual crowd) to team-building exercises, or fun interactive training sessions actually focused on being innovative and creative. Whatever you can do to get people having conversations cross-department can be good for the business of innovation and creativity.

2. Show them that it’s a desired behaviour

Too often, companies say that they want creativity, but they do nothing to show employees just how desired the behaviour is. Do you have a way to incentivise creativity or innovation? If they’re not already included in your people specifications at recruitment, or your appraisal criteria, can you include them? Can you award half-days off or have a ‘wall of praise’ for bravery? Even small actions that show you are thirsty for new ideas can help.

3. Make it clear it’s OK not to get it right the first time.

A common-touted idea is that, in creative companies, it’s OK to fail. That needs a small caveat attached: it’s OK to fail as long as you tried hard to make it work. If people are committing themselves wholeheartedly to new ideas, even if they’re not quite working out, their efforts should be lauded. The grit it needs to fail, admit it, and try again, is essential to creativity, too.

4. Give them great tools to help them think

Often, people want to be creative but don’t know where to start. That might be why you’re reading this article, too. Sometimes, it can be as simple as giving people the tools to help them think creatively. I think that’s the reason that my ‘Have Great Ideas and Learn How to Use Them’ workshop is so popular. It’s a practical way to arm people in corporate environments with a handful of tried and tested tools for working creatively. It also has the added benefit of putting them in touch with people across the firm (see point 1).

5. Give them great tools to help them act

It’s not just about allowing them to have the ideas, it’s about arming them with the bravery (there’s that word again!) to speak up, seek feedback, find external support, and engage with the process of floating an idea more widely in the company. It’s really important that if you run creativity workshops, you make sure that they are run in conjunction with teaching the tools of how to use your creativity – what do you do with an idea after you’ve come up with it? That’s why I make sure that my workshops on creativity always give people practical suggestions about how to take an idea forward.

If you would like to talk about creativity at work, my workshops, or how I might be able to help your firm to think and act more creatively, please get in touch.

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