Creativity isn’t just important for artists and musicians, nor is it a superfluous “add-on” quality that’s nice to have in a workforce. If you want your employees to be a team of fearsome, productive, insightful players for your brand, you need every member to be at their creative peak. Creativity allows for alternative solutions to tough, complex problems. It allows for new ideas to emerge and reshape your assumptions. It helps people improve their workflows and approaches, and most importantly, it inspires people, leading to a happier, more invested team.
So does this mean you should only hire the most creative people for your team?
Not necessarily. You see, even though some people might be born with a higher tendency to work creatively, that doesn’t mean everyone else is inherently less creative. Everyone has some degree of creativity within them — you just need to do the work of allowing that creativity to flourish. Hiring naturally creative candidates may help, but your primary goal should be creating an environment that nourishes the creativity in everyone.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Allow Flexible Work Schedules
Flexibility programs involve a deconstruction of the mandatory “9-to-5” workday. They may allow for flexible hours, work-from-home days, or even unlimited vacation — the point is to have some degree of flexibility to accommodate multiple types of people. Studies have consistently shown that flexible schedules lead to higher rates of overall productivity and higher job satisfaction, which alone should encourage you to adopt such a policy, but it also leads to more creativity. When workers aren’t fixated on precise punctuality, waiting out the clock, or rushing back from lunch, they have more time to decompress and naturally land on abstract solutions. To lean on an overused buzz-phrase, you’re letting your employees “work outside the box” to starting “thinking outside the box.”
2. Encourage Breaks
Again, taking breaks is nearly proven to increase factors like productivity and job satisfaction, but don’t neglect their ability to improve creative thinking as well. Allowing breaks gives work less of a “grindstone” feel and more of an active choice. When you aren’t pressured to complete a task, you can approach it in a more relaxed, thoughtful way; instead of trying to force the square peg into a circle hole, you’ll have the freedom to walk away, casually think about the problem, and ultimately come to a correct alternative solution on your own terms.
3. Listen to New Ideas
One of the biggest creative limits in business isn’t the fact that creativity isn’t there; it’s the fact that creativity isn’t heard. Your workers might be coming up with cool, creative, clever ideas, but if they don’t feel comfortable bringing those ideas to the surface, you’ll never hear about them. To resolve this discrepancy, institute a personal policy to listen to every new idea — even bad ones, and even ones that go against yours. You don’t have to act on them, but you do have to value them, give honest feedback, and reward your employees for bringing them up. Doing so regularly with cultivate an atmosphere of positive idea generation, which should self-perpetuate over time.
4. Fill Your Workplace With Sensory Experiences
Most creative experiences come from combining two seemingly unrelated ideas together. Prompting non-sequitur ideas through sensory experiences can help employees find new inspiration. For example, you could hang thought-provoking abstract art on the walls, fill the office with new scents on a regular basis, or play unconventional music through your loudspeakers. Doing so will help employees think in new ways and become more stimulated by their environment. As an added bonus, most of these additions have a calming or satisfying effect on people — so your team will feel happier and be more productive in addition to being more creative.
5. Facilitate a Team Mentality
It’s rare that a creative idea spontaneously pops into being in one person’s head. Most of the best business ideas I’ve seen are actually ones that were tinkered with and added to after being discussed with other partners, investors, and team members. Creativity, then, is a team sport, so you should make it your responsibility to help your team work together. Facilitate a “team” mentality by tearing down the walls of your office, conducting team exercises, and giving your teammates opportunities to bond with one another. Doing so will help them trust each other, and work together to bring new ideas to life.
Creativity doesn’t come naturally to everybody, but under these conditions, you’ll find your employees have more ideas, better outlooks, and more intriguing solutions to the problems that vex your business. The more you work together and the more comfortable your team grows in your creative environment, the better you’ll all become at coming up with creative ideas — and before you know it, you might nurture your very own class of new entrepreneurs to maturity.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!