Being creative is the key to pulling ahead of the competition. With innovative, new ideas, you can create products and services that customers have never seen before and didn’t realize they wanted. Even if you’re not creating something new, your team may devise a new way of coming at a problem that makes it much easier to overcome or determine a new approach to a process that makes it more efficient. Creativity is a talent that needs to be nurtured in the workplace, but it’s not always easy to get your team to think creativity. Here are a few ideas that will help get those creative juices flowing.
Encourage Creativity with Rewards
Employees need motivation. This is true no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. While some individuals, especially those new to the field, may have an inner drive to succeed, many need a reason to go above and beyond. Providing rewards for creative ideas, even if it’s just acknowledgement, can be a great motivator.
The first way of motivating employees to be creative is to show that you’re willing to hear ideas that are outside the norm. Just allowing someone to put forth an idea that’s different is a reward in and of itself. If it’s followed up by actually implementing the idea, that’s even better. You can also add a tangible reward from time to time to really motivate employees.
Some people are naturally shy or may have doubts about their ideas, so they don’t speak up. Even if you ask everyone to contribute, they may keep quiet for fear of being embarrassed in front of others. One way to give these employees a chance to be heard is to create an anonymous suggestion box. They can leave their ideas there for you to read over and possibly implement. If an employee sees his or her idea put into action, he or she may speak up more.
There are a couple of downsides to this. You don’t know who to reward, so you can’t recognize the person behind the idea. You also can’t ask the employee any questions or work with him or her to improve the idea.
Task Teams to be Creative
Rather than waiting for employees to be creative on their own, make it a group task. Create innovation teams and give each the task of looking at a particular part of your business to determine if it could be done better. This is a good way of getting the creative juices flowing and shows how much you value creative input. You can even start with small processes, then work your way up until teams are looking at things such as communication or department organization.
Show that the Organization Encourages Creativity
How do employees know that they can bring creative ideas to the table? There are some companies where creativity is not valued at all, and employees may actually be looked down upon if they try to solve a problem using anything other than that company’s tried and true method. If you have employees who have worked at one of these places before, they may be very shy about stepping forward with an innovative solution.
Rewarding creativity publically is one way of showing that your company values innovation. Another thing you can do is to engage with the help of motivational speakers. If you bring in a speaker who talks about creativity and presents exercises to help employees become more creative, you’re showing that you truly want people to share their ideas, even if they are very off-the-wall.
Instead of always going to the same people for major ideas or for team leadership, use crowdsourcing. If an employee puts forth an idea, don’t take that idea and give it to someone else to follow up on. Let the person who came up with the creative solution own it and lead the team designated to research and implement that idea.
Also look at shifting assignments around. Just because one person has done something for years and does it well doesn’t mean there’s not a better way. Sometimes an employee has worked on a task for so long that they no longer see it from all possible angles. Putting someone new in charge of that task may bring in the outside perspective needed to come up with something new.
Hire Diverse Employees
If most of your employees have the same background, experiences, qualifications, and come from the same culture, they’re likely to approach things the same way. You may get some creative ideas, but the employees are likely to all agree on those ideas.
If you bring in people from different backgrounds, they will all put forward ideas that are completely different from each other. This leads to discussion and debate. In some cases, it may even lead to the merging of two radically different solutions into one that no single person would have come up with on their own.
Create a Positive Atmosphere
It’s hard to be creative in an office that has a negative atmosphere to it. As the boss, it’s up to you to make sure that everyone feels comfortable in the workplace. If you keep the tone light yet focused, you’ll find that people tend to let their creative ideas flow. While work does, at times, need to be very serious, you can’t let the office become so serious that it stifles ideas.
There are a few things you can do to keep the mood positive. For example, you can celebrate employee birthdays by having cake, and you can have holiday parties that let people mingle without worrying about work. Retreats and team-building exercises can also be a fun way of letting your employees learn about each other without the stress of work.
Take the Time to Listen
Finally, simply take the time to listen to what your employees have to say. Let employees know that their ideas will not only be heard, they will be considered. They won’t be made fun of or immediately told no because their idea conflicts with how things have been done. Once people understand that, they will feel much more empowered and be more likely to come to you with their new, creative ideas.