How can we talk about creativity and innovation to make it part of our business as usual? Like many things, permission to think freely starts at the top.
Empowering team members to suggest and develop creative solutions is a leadership responsibility. To some leaders it might feel like they're handing the keys to the asylum over to the inmates, but smart leaders who foster and celebrate creativity assure long-term team and organisational viability by creating an enabling environment where new ideas flourish.
Turn your next meeting into an ideas lab
Asking open questions can wake the creative juices and demonstrate that new ideas are welcome.
"Who can help us solve this problem in a new way? Are they the "usual suspects" or can we invite some new voices into this conversation?"
"What does it feel like for customers, stakeholders and team members to work with us? What should it feel like?"
"What can we do to evolve - why are we trying to apply old solutions to new problems?"
Lack of engagement kills innovation. Quickly.
Do you want team members to think outside the box? If so, beware of a dominant organisational culture where stereotypes, overly-constraining hierarchy and a command and control communication style rule. If you hear employees saying things like: "I used to put ideas forward, but there's really no point now" that's an indicator that there may be some barriers to overcome.
Reward and Recognise Creativity
It's a commitment to make innovation a true leveller in your organisation. Allow innovators to be acknowledged as key influencers and reward them with recognition, affirmation and thanks.
"That was a real breakthrough."
"We hadn't thought of it that way before."
"That's an unconventional way of looking at this issue. You've really gotten us thinking - thank you."
"Can you share that idea at the next leadership meeting?"
Internal Crowdsourcing - Everyone Gets a Voice
Harness the power of many unique voices with enterprise-wide crowdsourcing with online innovation tools like Spigit and IdeaScale (not an endorsement - just examples). These types of platforms can help capture and crowdsource the best ideas. In organisations that struggle with diversity and inclusion issues where some individuals can be reluctant to confidently speak out in meetings or put ideas forward, online innovation platforms or social business tools like Yammer can be highly democratic, allowing anyone to participate. Though online tools won't solve everything, they can be an enabler to start to normalise the listening to a diverse range of voices rather than a select few.
Eureka! We've innovated! Job done. (Not quite...)
Creativity is an on-going process, not a result. Bless it with patience.
Test and pilot new ideas, take rational risks and debate realistically when there are setbacks. Just because something needs adjusting or the introduction of new information has nudged an activity in an unexpected direction, doesn't mean that we should adopt wholesale abandonment of all new ideas. There's no room for "See, I told you this wouldn't work" in an innovation culture.
When do you feel the most creative at work?