Creativity is more than just artistry— it means taking unique approaches to problem-solving, developing bold and original ideas, and looking at the world from a different perspective. In a working environment, a creative team is priceless. Yet in so many organizations, creativity can be stigmatized, perceived as irrelevant, unproductive, or reserved for “creatives”. Such a mindset can hinder a company’s true potential.
In this post, we want to provide some guiding lessons for bringing the creativity out of each of your team members, ultimately leading to a bolder, more innovative business.
Developing a Creative Culture
Any company has the ability to build a creative culture, but it will require widespread buy-in and coordination. It starts with the hiring process— ask yourself: who represents the spirit of your company? Skills and qualifications are traditionally reliable metrics to judge candidates, but consider hiring instead based on character and passion. While you can always train people to build industry skills, it’s a lot harder to teach core values like curiosity or tenacity.
As for building on the existing team, leaders should promote and celebrate moments of individuality. Encouraging creativity and encouraging people to be their authentic selves go hand in hand. From allowing people to dress how they want to allowing people to express their minds however they want, encouragement in the workplace can take shape in many ways.
Ultimately, leaders that seek creativity must embrace risk-taking. Creativity is about thinking unconventionally, and that requires going past the limits or even bending certain rules. For instance, consider the invention of the Apple iPhone or the Netflix streaming service. For these products to truly innovate, both Apple and Netflix had to break the mold, and risk alienating their intended market completely. The impact, however, was well worth the struggle.
Strategies for Creativity at Work
Assuming your team is already creative or is in the process of becoming more creative, how can they better implement that mindset within the workplace? Here are a few strategies that may assist you.
The beauty of brainstorming is in its lack of structure— everyone on the team is given an equal opportunity to voice their idea or opinions, leading to a kaleidoscope of potential solutions. Its greatest strength can also be its greatest weakness, however, since brainstorming can go long without any direction or overarching strategy.
One solution around this is the brainwriting method, which is an evolution of the standard brainstorming process. The practice has several variants but generally involves taking ideas brainstormed by others and iterating on them. Consider brainwriting in your meetings for more structured brainstorming.
Learn from setbacks
The business world has a particular aversion to failure: often it is seen as inexcusable and unforgivable. But reflect on how you have grown in your own life— did you get to where you are by always winning? On the contrary, when you allow for failure, new opportunities and lessons emerge. Although it may seem like a low point, these setbacks can teach us the most.
Before streaming became the preferred means of watching movies and television, Sony and JVC battled over videotape dominance. Sony had the Betamax, which was in many regards the superior format (at least technically), while JVC had the VHS, a more popular and affordable option. Sony eventually lost that format war, with VHS capturing 90% of the total US VCR market. But Sony learned a lot about the ordeal, eventually winning the newer format wars with their Blu-Ray technology, now a video standard around the world.
Opposite to brainstorming, splitting off, and thinking about problems alone can lead to a different kind of problem-solving. Although many find it useful to talk through their problems and collaborate with others, there are a few people who would rather reflect on a solution themselves. Allow individuals to schedule a time to be on their own, trusting them with the goodwill of being independent and autonomous.
Last but not least, recognize and celebrate success where you see it! Creativity can take courage since not everyone is comfortable with breaking the norm. Whenever you see creativity help others or move the company forward, make sure you congratulate the individual and encourage others to learn by their example.
Resources for Creativity
Looking to research tools that will cultivate a more creative culture? Below you will find a compilation of collaboration tools, apps, and websites that will help you in communication and idea generation.
There are a lot of instant messaging apps out there, but few as widely accepted and easy to use like Slack. Used by even large companies such as Target, Uber, TD Ameritrade, and more, Slack has a clean interface for messaging but is more efficient and more secure than traditional email. Create channels that encourage creativity or celebrate success, and you’ll find a new way of collaborating with the team.
These days you’ll find a project management app almost everywhere, but Trello remains the most visually intuitive option. The genius lies in its boards and cards system, which can be modified to suit all sorts of needs: from brainstorming product ideas to tracking progress in a pipeline. It’s almost like having several online whiteboards. Similar to Slack, Trello offers support for dozens of different integrations.
The beauty of the cloud is that teams today can work together in realtime, without having to download applications or files to get started. Start a presentation on your laptop and finish it on your desktop, or review a document on your tablet or phone. Google and Apple offer two highly-competitive options, but they will accomplish the same goals. Google is more ubiquitous, offering support for Windows and Apple devices, while Apple iWork has a more visually appealing design.
Creative Work Environments
So far we have covered the various elements of creative teams— from the culture to the tools required. But there is another element we haven’t discussed: the actual environment for breeding creativity.
It sounds so obvious, but if you want creative teams, you need to have creative office spaces. Hang up art or decorations. Bring more plants into the room. Move office equipment around. You would be surprised how much the mood of a room can change just by organizing, cleaning, and furnishing it a certain way. Don’t forget about the importance of color in an environment too— consider painting the walls a different shade or letting more light into a room.
Complement your workstation with quiet areas or spaces for deep focus. Whether it’s a dining area or a private nook within the same floor, these spaces can help provide a much-needed respite from long periods of work.
Cultivating creative workplaces is not something that happens overnight— it requires planning, coordination, and teamwork. But the impact will reverberate throughout the entire company, from the top leadership all the way to the newest hire. Creativity has the potential to transform lives and create a brighter future for everyone.