Eight Strategies To Boost Your Company’s Creativity
Last week, I wrote about strategies to increase creativity in your workspace by manipulating the environment. This week, I am going to write about creativity and idea creation, switching the focus from your workspace to your peers and company as a whole. These tips are great for managers or for those who want to take a more active role in their careers. Let’s begin.
1) BEYOND CARROTS AND STICKS
Employees who are self-motivated end up being more productive than those who are extrinsically motivated. As I have said in previous blog posts, if people are only money motivated, their work will suffer. The most successful companies pay their employees a salary slightly above average for their position and focus on personal development as an incentive instead of cash bonuses. Additionally--and this is opposite of what many managers assume--when bribes make it into the mix, productivity decreases. Nationally, with only 13% of employees who are considered “highly engaged” in their jobs, your company is probably looking for ways to inspire employees. This is why: 1) Finding the right employees is important; 2) Training is key to success; and 3) Aligning company goals with personal development (existential goals) makes all the difference.
2) COMPANY CULTURE IS A BIG DEAL
Being in a positive mood aids in creative thinking. According to neuroscience research, people who identified as being in a good mood were better at solving complex problems. At your organization, employees should want to come to work (intrinsic motivation helps). Creating an environment that caters to employee interests will put workers in a good mood, resulting in better outputs. A growth mindset and clear feedback will help grow the people around you. This, along with validating skills will lead to creative confidence. Research suggests that if someone thinks that they are creative, they are more likely to produce creative results. Your organization should strive for a company culture that encourages a growth mindset by maintaining a positive attitude towards work and creativity--even when the going gets tough.
3) BREAKS AND CALIBRATION
Taking a break can induce a period of short-term incubation. During this time, the person stops what they are working on and focuses completely on a new topic. Interruptions throughout the day can be scheduled to encourage short-term incubation. Examples of this can range from daily “stand up” meetings (popular in companies who use scrum) to offering training or lectures throughout the week. The best recipe has a mixture of short interruptions spaced throughout the day among larger periods of alone time. Engage; reflect; record.
4) BUILD YOUR IDEA NETWORK
An “Idea Network” is open, casual, diverse, and communication-rich--what Steven Johnson calls a "Liquid Network", meaning engaging with multiple networks of people. There are a few ways to create this environment at your company. The first is to encouraged employees to frequently attend (and present) at functions. Examples of functions would be Creative Mornings, arts or cultural event, or an industry-related conference. Another way to tap into an Idea Network is to have speakers come during the lunch hour to give a presentation; these are sometimes called “brown bag sessions” because they are informal, you are responsible for bringing your own lunch, and the sessions are not mandatory. At some of these meetings, a guru in a specific field shares a lecture about the work they are doing. At large tech companies, lecturers have included physicists, neuroscientists, and popular fiction authors--bringing in people outside of the field expands focus.
5) CREATIVE PRIMING
Priming is quick, only taking a few minutes, and works by engaging one of three types of creative thinking: connecting ideas, envisioning instead of verbalizing, or absorbing new ideas or experiences. This can be done individually with a task like a crossword puzzle or in a group where together people come up with a list of ideas for the possible uses of a tennis ball. Start a meeting with a five-minutes drill where everyone can take breaks from their work and strategically prime themselves for the rest of the day (this can also be thought of as rebooting the brain to move from deep focus to a wider focus). Additionally, games to stimulate “play” are important for creative problem solving. This mindset will carry through to work time and the hope is that employees will take a playful approach to problem-solving, expanding their thinking instead of narrowing it.
6) PLAYFUL WORKSPACE
Use “play” and “fun” to modify behavior by making your company workspace more interactive. One idea to encourage employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator is the Flag Challenge. Every time someone walks up the stairs, they carry one of their teams flags up with them and place it in a bucket at the top of the stairs. Every time someone walks downstairs, they can take another team’s flag down with them and place it in the downstairs bucket. The team with the most flags at the top of the stairs by the end of the week wins.
This is just one idea I came up with this week; feel free to think of one that would fit well at your company. VW has a project called The Fun Theory implemented on a citywide scale. Check out their videos for some creative priming :-)
7) CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE
When people change their routines or look at a typical process in a new way, the result is creative thinking. Employees should be encouraged to take a new way to work once a week. Another option to gain creative thinking from this approach is to have a team do a normal task in a new way. Examples of this include building a sandwich from the inside out (bread on the inside), drawing a picture with your less dominate hand, and tying your shoes with chopsticks. (Further reading: Simone Ritter of Radboud University Nijmegen, 24 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND July/August 2012, P. 29)
8) NEVER EAT LUNCH “KNOWN”
Diversity aids in creative thinking (as mentioned earlier with idea networks and liquid networks). My take on “never eat lunch alone” is “never eat lunch known”. At your company, you could initiate a lunch meet up where people can go on professional “lunch dates” with someone from another department. In the morning, employees can sign up to be “available for lunch at X time” and receive an email notification from a “match”. This would encourage cross-team interaction so an employee in one department could get to know the inner workings of another department. It would look something like this: legal department meet with graphic designers, IT security meet with people in the legal department, developers meet with IT security, and so on (x meet with y, y meet with z, z meet with x, and so on).
Questions, suggestions, or do you want to share your blog with me? Feel free to send me an email at the address below.
More than luck, friends!
Andrew J. Wilt