Creativity – whilst there’s much debate about whether we are all are born with it, there’s no denying that most children have a natural flair for exploring the land of make-believe, trying new things, failing, and trying again.
However, as people move toward adulthood, often their flair for thinking unconventionally and taking risks can become inhibited, especially in the workplace. Long hours, a lack of purpose, micro-management, risk-aversion and tasks perceived as monotonous can ‘dim the inner light’.
Yet there is no reason why people who are given the time, circumstances and opportunity to express themselves can’t become more innovative and in turn produce inventive business ideas.
So why would organisations bother to promote it?
No one knows where the next ground-breaking idea is going to come from, but where it won’t come from is the land of “we’ve always done it this way.” That’s why Amy Sawbridge of Virgin Group (well known for getting the ‘people stuff’ right) stated at a recent Purple Breakfast Club event that listening to their employees’ opinions is a win-win situation. This is born out by our own experiences; for example a single idea submitted by a part-time employee to his company via our Talent Toolbox ideas and innovations feature ultimately saved his organisation £500,000 a year! The organisation keeps learning & innovating, and employees continue to feel involved and listened to.
Fostering a creative culture can help to tackle larger challenges, such as productivity and employee engagement. It’s been found that organisations who foster a workplace culture of creativity are more likely to have motivated employees who are loyal and happy. John Lewis empowers their staff by encouraging shared responsibility for the outcomes of the company. Their team members own the company; they are ‘partners’ not ‘staff’ – as such they’re involved in decisions and by evolving what they do together are able to deliver outstanding customer service.
Enabling and encouraging employees to innovate, allows them to see the bigger picture, showing them that they can produce positive change in their workplace. This is a powerful tool in the battle to engage employees, treated as adults they feel valued , listened to, respected, important…
A quick guide to fostering a creative-thinking culture:
1. Recruit the right people – recruit to your culture and make sure people buy into your vision because then people will be the right ‘fit’ to optimise the odds of creative insights.
2. Make sure you have a clear People Promise so that people know exactly what can expect from working with you, ensuring that the emotional contract is a true reflection of the reality. This is your opportunity to set some guidelines, non-negotiables if you like, so that people know how far they can go and how innovation works in practice within your business. This will, in turn, ensure your employees already have a vested interest in the organisation before they even join, increasing the chances they will want to help evolve the company.
3. Create a culture that enhances people’s attachment to and excitement for the work. Articulate how the work your people are doing has meaning. For example, Southwest Airlines don’t just see themselves as transporting people, but as enablers who help their customers get to people or places they care about. Whether the impact is small or large, it can make a big difference to how important an employee perceives their job. A strong, clear purpose connects emotionally with employees and engages them.
4. Implement a recognition system for innovation – to sustain creativity, employees need to know that the dedication that they put into creating their ideas will be met with an equal level of fairness and dedication in the way they are evaluated and rewarded. This will also increase intrinsic motivation.
If you’re not already celebrating creativity within your organisation, maybe now’s the time to start…