Creativity lies at the heart of every decision, and every action, that you take as a small business owner. Without creativity, our business and professional lives become stagnant and boring. Creativity is necessary, because without it new ideas, and the innovative products, services and solutions that spring from them, simply cease to exist. If you want your business to flourish and grow, you must do everything that you can to encourage creativity, and new ways of thinking and doing things, at every level of your business.
The creative spark and process, however, is notoriously resistant to attempts to manage, control and direct it. For most folks, the creative juices and muses simply don't arrive on a set timetable. Leaders, owners and managers can, however, create an environment that contributes to the development of unique and creative ideas.
The following three strategies can help you to encourage greater creativity in your workplace.
Bring People Together, Challenge Them, and Then Grant Them Freedom and Autonomy
One source of conflict in many organisations is separation or compartimentalisation. Many times, people in separate departments literally become "walled off" from one another. Over time, the proverbial left hand no longer knows what the right hand is doing. Mini-fiefdoms often develop amid this confusion and information is hoarded within individual departments. You can encourage a greater exchange of ideas and creativity throughout your company by breaking down these walls between departments.
Have your people cross-train between departments frequently and then ask them for their suggestions for ways to improve processes. Simply having a "fresh" set of eyes to look over the way that you do things often leads to original, creative ideas that can improve things for everyone!
In addition to cross-trainings, consider hosting regular events that help people break free from the monotony of their normal routines and encourage team building. Present your people with challenges to overcome during these events, and then get out of the way and let your people surprise you with the innovative solutions that they discover!
Make Certain Work is a Safe Place for Open Dialogue
Rather than holding regular meetings, where most of the time is devoted to speeches given by you or other leaders in your company, host regular brainstorming sessions. Bring people together in your workplace to discuss new ideas that might solve old, unresolved challenges or even talk about ways that you can improve your products and services to make them more functional for your clients.
Make a point to encourage open dialogue and make sure that your people understand up front that no idea or question is off limits. Make sure that regardless of someone's title, that it is safe for everyone to voice their thoughts, concerns, and ideas.
Since stress quickly kills creative thoughts, whenever possible, consider providing snacks and beverages to help your people relax and make these sessions more comfortable and fun.
Make it Easy to Create
Bureaucracy and even the simple hassles that come from our normal, everyday routines can put a damper on our creative impulses. You can encourage greater creativity by helping them to make their lives less hectic.
Look for ways to offer your people perks that make their lives simpler and less chaotic. Offer flexible scheduling and work from home opportunities when possible. Providing opportunities for growth through additional training, educational assistance, and mentorship programs will also help reduce stress and make your employees feel respected. As their self-esteem and confidence rise, don't be surprised to see a nice boost to their creativity in the process!
Even something as simple as offering an onsite cafeteria for meals, or on-site daycare and healthcare can help your people save time in their daily lives and feel less rushed. You can also make it easier for your people by setting a good example and encouraging healthy self-care habits. Recommend your team take breaks and renew their spirit by offering paid time away from work. Set reasonable work schedules, workloads and goals for both yourself and your staff.
Your personal creativity, as well as the creativity of your people, is the literal lifeblood of your organisation. While it will require time and effort, taking steps to nurture the creative impulses of everyone in your organisation is well worth the cost in today's increasingly competitive marketplace.
Sophie Andrews is the author of The Creative Collection, Director of the Australian Bookkeepers Association and CEO of The Accounts Studio, a bookkeeping and cash flow consulting agency specializing in working with creatives and entrepreneurs.
Follow Sophie Andrews on Twitter: www.twitter.com/accountsstudio or visit the website www.accountsstudio.com.au