Most workplaces give lip service to encouraging creativity and new ideas.
Few, though, take the time and effort to develop the sort of culture where that can happen.
Many assume that creativity happens randomly and spontaneously. However, evidence shows there are systematic ways to spur novel ideas. Robert Epstein has identified four core competencies that can spur innovation:
- Capture your new ideas.
- Seek out challenging tasks.
- Broaden your knowledge.
- Surround yourself with interesting things and people.
Here are eight tips to spark a creative environment:
1. Set up a system for gathering, assessing and rewarding creativity. Schedule time for brainstorming and generating new ideas, and block off time to follow up on every idea. This reinforces creativity’s essential role in your organization. Reserving time for and rewarding creativity also shows that your leaders take it seriously. Without that commitment, it’s unlikely staffers will put time and effort into stretching themselves.
2. Encourage and reward creativity in individual workspaces. Workers should be free to surround themselves with objects, textures, colors or decor of their choosing. It might seem a small matter, but giving employees a measure of control over their workspace will put them at ease—which can spur creativity.
3. Create contests for new ideas. Have you considered giving a prize or another form of recognition for the best new idea of the month? Workers could vote for their favorites and come up with a prize tailored to each winner.
4. Encourage spontaneity and random ideas. Hold regular meetings solely to discuss ideas. The only rules: No idea is unacceptable, and nobody can ridicule anyone else’s ideas. You might form teams and make a game out of it: One team opposes an idea, and the other defends it. That would get people talking, and you might just generate some bright ideas.
5. Hold meetings outside the workplace. Look for interesting places to gather, as far away from the workplace as possible. Conducting a meeting at a historic site, museum, college campus or other outside venue can reinvigorate your colleagues.
6. Give employees time to work on personal projects. Autonomy builds trust and boosts creativity. Encourage staff to share what they are working on and to reach out for help, support and ways they can improve their pet projects. Ideas flow more freely in a culture of freedom and trust.
7. Support and encourage staff to continuously learn. How do you handle staff enrichment or skills development? Is it a priority, or do you simply respond to requests as they come in? To foster a culture of continual learning, you might consider offering financial rewards, time off or recognition to those who go above and beyond to gain new skills. How about a prize to honor people who inspire others to grow as well?
8. Put useful ideas into practice as soon as possible. Create timelines and a plan for implementing good ideas. Let everyone know when they can expect to see it come to fruition. If ideas are not used, explain why they might not be implemented just yet.
Make employees feel heard, respected and valued. If you demonstrate to workers that their opinions are taken seriously, you’ll be much more likely to spur productive, creative thought.