Five Ways to Unlock Creativity in the Workplace

Five Ways to Unlock Creativity in the Workplace

  1. Teach the Process

Creativity isn’t taught as a course of action in contemporary educational circles. Students are taught much in their school days through grade school and as undergraduates. But much of that learning is done in the box. As much as thinking outside the box is a cliché, it is a valuable axiom, one that should be incorporated in your daily training process.

Most of your employees will want to know what the steps are when you ask them to do something. It’s a normal question to ask. While you answer it with step-by-step instructions, also point out that it is okay to question those steps and the assumptions that come with them.

Creativity comes from being curious and following ideas wherever they might lead. Encourage employees to explore different ways to do things and to develop new approaches and solutions. Let them present those ideas to you and actually look at them. It will help your own creativity to questions the assumptions you still hold.

  1. Make Failure a Part of the Process

Today’s millenials are afraid to fail. It has been bred into them that they are special and that they can do anything they set their minds to. But they have also spent the better part of their lives with either a model or a mentor to work from or with. Take either away and the results vary wildly.

There is nothing wrong with working and learning from a model. Likewise, mentor-mentee relationships can be tremendously worthwhile. But the ability to think creatively is fostered best when neither is used as a crutch.

This is where the fear of failure should be openly removed. Tell your employees that you expect them to fail at the outset. Failure is good. Fail creatively and fail big. But try to fail early. Document the failure and what came next and how that worked or didn’t work. Then keep working.

The Wright brothers worked on their airplanes, researching, and building, and failing, and going through the process again. They looked at the work of others and tested it. They discarded it. They found that others hadn’t spent enough time actually flying so they flew more. Yes they had models and yes they had mentors. But they used them as guides, not gospel.

  1. Encourage Questions

The best organizations encourage their employees to question how and why processes are in place. It isn’t enough to teach people the way things are done and expect them to mindlessly perform those operations. This methodology limits not only these particular processes, but also stifles imagination during the duration of their completion.

In addition, dissuading employees from asking questions makes them more dependent on things working exactly the way the process dictates. Variables can cause headaches if the employee doesn’t know the ins and outs of the process.

Instead, encourage your employees to understand the underlying detail behind what is being done. Let them ask copious questions about why things happen and what happens if they are done this way or that way. Ask them to ask you all of the things that pop into their heads as they go through the process.

The environment you promote should be one where employees aren’t afraid to ask stupid questions for fear of ridicule, rebuke, or even a simple eye roll. This practice can at times be tiring for supervisors, but when things go awry it is much more beneficial to have a staff that understands your business and can work on the fly. They will be more able to think outside the box and find a solution that their robot counterparts will not see.

  1. Build Teams From Within

There is a premium placed on open layouts in many of the new startups popping up around the world. But the floor plan doesn’t make the team. As you build your teams, make sure you put together a group that complements each other and works well together. This is where managers should make their money.

Do an inventory of the skills each member has, which can be developed and which parts of your workload would best be allocated to another member. Try to find ways to work to each member’s strengths as projects are completed.

As the team works together for the first time, assist in reiterating the creative process. Show how it can work in tandem with the nuts and bolts. Get the team working together and create a system for non-invasive check-ins that don’t hurt workflow. Then set them to work and make notes of how to assist and where to offer council.

  1. Provide Freedom

Once those teams are build and working together, grant them freedom. This comes in different forms. First, by basing their performance reviews on productivity rather than time on tasks, you’ll encourage quality work rather than clock watching. If you trust your staff to get things done you should trust them to manage their time effectively. Often, flex time on Fridays, whether work employees come in early or stay late, and whether teams choose to do some of their work outside the office on an extended lunch shouldn’t be the overriding concern. If your focus is on the job done, trust the staff to do it. You taught them how

About author

Michael Barry
Michael Barry 31 posts

Michael Barry is the Editor-In-Chief at AgeOfTheSmallBusiness.com. Currently living in Boston, Massachusetts, he received his B.A. in Financial Economics from St. Anselm College and his MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine.

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