Creativity is very much in demand. The tech sector has grown exponentially over the past few decades, and the value of creative ideas has soared. Companies that are right at the forefront of technological advancement, like the all powerful Google, want to capitalise on the undeniable value of these ideas by creating time for their employees to work on their own projects.
This is referred to as the 20% program, and it very generously states that developers can spend approximately 20% of their time at work (the equivalent of one full day every week), working on the side projects that interests them most. It’s proven to be incredibly effective, so much so, that some of Google’s successful products like Google News and Gmail were born from the 20% program.
Based on those incredible results, it’s apparent that the value of creating an environment where your employees are encouraged to think creatively and put their ideas forward should not be underestimated. There are a few different methods and ways to bolster creativity in the workplace, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the most effective ones that you can implement as soon as you’re ready to become the next Google.
Many employees will not feel it is their place to indulge in creative or innovative thinking unless they’ve been told it is encouraged and there is some system in place to reward their efforts. It’s imperative that any suggestions they come up with are carefully considered and maybe even implemented, as it can be very disheartening to have your original concept immediately dismissed or unnecessarily criticised.
Where creativity is not essential to an employee’s role, it’s a good idea to set goals to give them something solid to aim at. You could ask each employee to come up with one idea about how to make a work process more efficient. The ideas will be assessed at the end of the month and the best will receive a reward. Any ideas that are implemented should result in tangible (money or incentives) or intangible (recognition or an afternoon off) rewards.
If an employee is not often required to be creative in their role, it’s worth defining some goals and end results for them to aim at. Consider getting them to create a list of new ways to make their work more efficient, as it’s a good exercise that can have positive results, and it focuses on something they know.
Any ideas that are implemented could receive tangible (money, incentives) or intangible (recognition, time off) rewards. Within reason, if employees are allowed to be creative, they will often draw their own rewards from it, being happier in their job, especially if their suggestions are heard and sometimes implemented.
Give them a voice
Every organisation will have some creative people busily working away on their day to day tasks, but their ideas won’t be heard unless you give them a voice. It’s easy to focus on the people who are willing to speak up and approach others with their ideas, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones worth listening to.
Having a suggestion box or shared document is a great way for people to add ideas anonymously, something that the quieter employees may appreciate. Periodically going over the good ideas and recognising those who contributed (if they’re willing to take credit) is great for building a nurturing environment within the team. Before you know it, everyone will be chucking ideas out left, right, and centre, many of which are bound to be actionable.
This applies to brainstorming too; make time to give everyone a chance to contribute as best they can. It’s easy for these group sessions to become dominated by one or two people, so consider having a system where everyone takes a turn, or is able to contribute in some capacity. Get everyone inspired about the idea and you won’t have to worry about some employees not contributing.
Broaden employee experience
It is often the case that we all work in silos, separated from the usual tasks and challenges faced by others in the same business. Building this knowledge by introducing short term job swaps or shadowing of other employees in house can be great ways to make your staff aware of the other problems that their colleagues can face.
This is a very effective way to develop solutions, as people removed from a process might be able to more easily identify how it can be refined or improved upon. Although it may not always be feasible to have people swapping jobs every so often, even thinking about the challenges faced by others can prompt a team to work together to make it more efficient for everyone involved.
Challenge the way staff work
Being challenged and overcoming new obstacles is the way our brains adapt and develop original thoughts and ideas. Try challenging employees with an alternative way to perform a task, or suggest they accomplish something that they wouldn’t usually be asked to do.
This opens up the brain to consider options that wouldn’t normally occur in a usual day; something that is very beneficial to the improvement of creativity and lateral thinking in the long run. Working in the same way, doing the same tasks is comfortable, but our brains are always looking for ways to stretch their muscles, so give them the opportunity and get out of your comfort zone.
Introduce innovation teams
A more formal method of promoting creativity in the workplace is to set up innovation teams. Feel free to create a few teams, as each one can be tasked with improving a particular work process. Try using some of the methods mentioned above to get each team performing at their peak creativity.
It shouldn’t be a competition, but always make sure to recognise and reward the teams that produce great ideas that solve problems. A happy team will be motivated to continue developing ideas and will often look at it as a way to make a difference.
An acceptance of mistakes
As with every creative endeavour, inevitably there will be mistakes; it’s an essential part of the creative process. However, despite this, some organisations are worried about the repercussions of making mistakes, and will avoid risk and, subsequently, innovation wherever possible. For a creative environment to exist, you have to be willing to accept mistakes and move past them.
Mistakes are a key part of the learning experience, and should help each new idea become more refined and effective. Make sure to be supportive of those who make mistakes; penalising others for an error will stamp out any creativity as they will be unwilling to risk failure again. Keep this in mind and not only should the mistakes be short lived, but they shouldn’t impact the effectiveness of your creative team at all.
A diverse workforce will bring different viewpoints to the same thing. Some organisations seek to hire employees that are all alike in order to foster a more effective team and working environment. However doing this will often result in the opposite. If all your employees come from the same area, same background, same education and so on, they are more likely to step on each others toes and create friction.
Your team doesn’t have to be too wildly diverse, but getting a group of completely different people together can throw up some amazing concepts that can truly benefit everyone. Consider getting rid of things like dress codes and seating plans so that your team can truly express themselves, and their ideas, to everyone else.
Create a positive environment
A relaxed workplace is perhaps the most important method of fostering creativity. Workplaces that are too quiet, stressful or depressing simply do not generate good ideas on a consistent basis. When employees are unhappy with their situation, they are more concerned with getting through the day as quickly and easily as possible; developing new ideas is not at the forefront of their mind.
Many studies have shown that positive moods can spur creativity, and the same applies to the workplace. Consider offering flexibility and trust in your employees to make them happier. Happy employees are not only motivated to do their work, but look for ways to make it better, which is where the creativity comes in.
Creativity can’t be forced, but there are definitely some things you can do to make your working environment more conducive to the creative process. It boils down to keeping your team happy and able to express themselves without fear of criticism. Try implementing a few of the points mentioned above, and you will definitely notice a difference in they way your team approaches their work, and the results they get.If you want to find out more about our approach to creativity, check out our whitepaper on the topic. It’s not easy to pin down, but there are a few tricks that you can use to assist in creative thinking, all of which can be relayed to your team to make the most of all those creative minds!