Creating a workplace where innovation and creativity thrive doesn’t happen by accident. Careful planning and forethought go into building a company that consistently makes breakthroughs and produces new ideas. The marketplace is already full of organizations that tout their creative edge but fail to deliver. If you want to earn the reputation in your industry and in the marketplace of ideas for being a cutting edge company that pushes the boundaries in innovation and thought, you need to be intentional about fostering creativity in the workplace. There are dozens of ways to nurture creativity within an organization, but it boils down to three key areas: management style, company culture, physical environment, tools and resources, and incentives. By combining these key areas and consistently doing the work associated with each, you’ll position your company to be a creative force in the industry.
The physical environment can either stifle or stimulate creativity. What fosters creativity will differ from person to person. It’s important to try new ideas and evaluate what works for the majority of the team members and make adjustments as necessary. To stimulate creative thinking, carefully consider the configuration of the office and furniture. Is the furniture comfortable, or is everyone seated on metal chairs? It’s hard to be creative when you’re cramped and crowded. Have open spaces for collaboration, and situate furniture in a way that encourages communication. Creative types also need to have time alone with their thoughts, so providing individual workspaces is also important. Think about the type of art you want on the walls, or consider sculptures and pieces by local artists. Choose art that makes a person pause to think and ponder. Motivational quotes and company mantras strategically placed around the office can remind team members what their purpose is and what they’re striving for. Go beyond visual sensations and think about music. In addition to music, you might consider “white noise” sounds like ocean waves or rainfall. The important thing is to find a balance between sounds that stimulate creativity and music that causes distraction. Have you ever been inside a building that smells musty and old? That’s not the type of environment that anyone would thrive in. Try soft-scented candles or aromatherapy. Take into consideration that not all scents will work equally well, and that some people have a sensitivity to smells. Choose your physical surroundings carefully. Be open to experimenting to see what works best for your team members.
Tools and Resources
Nothing tamps down creativity like having to fight for the proper tools to do your job. Think of providing your employees the resources they need as an investment, not a cost. While it’s important to cover the basics just for the sake of getting the job done, you might have to go a little further to stimulate creativity. Great ideas are born from other great ideas. Team members need to stay current on what’s happening in the industry. Research books, trade journals, and industry magazines can all provide fuel for the imagination. Also, reading material that has nothing to do with work can provide a “brain break” while giving the subconscious a chance to do the heavy lifting. Creative people often think in pictures, rather than words. Provide a wall with dry erase paint to give team members a chance to do some creative mind-mapping and doodling. Also, sketch pads and colored pencils or other art supplies give creative people a chance to let their best thinking come to life. Due to a rush of endorphins and additional blood to the brain, exercise is a great tool to stimulate innovative thinking. By providing simple exercise equipment such as treadmills and stationary bikes, you’re not only giving your employees a chance to think, but you’re showing that you care about their health. If your workplace doesn’t have the room for large equipment, consider simple items like stress balls and resistance bands. Another way to stimulate creative thinking is to provide games and puzzles. Word games, logic puzzles, and card games have a way of keeping the mind active, even if it’s not focused on the current project. Active minds produce great ideas. Providing the necessary tools and resources goes beyond making the bare necessities available. If you want to stimulate creativity in the workplace, you must be a creative workplace. Remember, creativity feeds creativity.
Creative people are fueled by a job well-done. But offering extra incentives will show appreciation, which in turn establishes the trust necessary for a creative type to continue producing. Monetary incentives are great, but they aren’t the only way to show appreciation, nor are they the easiest for a company that’s just starting out. Food is the type of reward that can be enjoyed by everyone. Providing snacks and drinks, or occasionally a full meal will not only show appreciation, but will give everyone a chance to relax and have a little time to bond. Offer extra time off for associates who do an exceptional job. It can be as much as offering additional days, or as simple as allowing them to cut out early for the weekend. Give team members who consistently have the best ideas extra recognition. You can recognize them at meetings, in company newsletters, or at end-of-year banquets. Creativity is fueled by the sense of value and purpose that comes with public recognition. If you want your team to be a leading force in the industry, creativity is key. A workplace that fosters creativity isn’t going to happen by chance. It’s going to take commitment on the part of those in leadership. It may require a change of thinking and adjusting to new ways of managing. The payoff is there for those willing to take the plunge, the leaders who are determined to carve out their niche in the marketplace. It’s time to step up your game and take the creativity in your workplace to the next level.