Spark creative thinking with these tips
Innovation is a desirable goal for just about everyone, but the daily grind of the workplace is not set up to support it. How can you change this at your organization? By providing pathways for your employees to tap into creativity, take risks, be curious, and experiment with new ideas. Here are six ways to do that.
Replace competition with collaboration
Good-natured competitions to see who can come up with the best idea for X can be fun, but they don’t encourage employees to share ideas with each other. Change the mindset of your organization from one of competition to one of collaboration by providing tools that ask employees to work in teams to come up with new ideas or solutions, and recognize those teams rather than individuals when calling out successes. Different industries need different types of collaboration arrangements and tools.
Encourage ongoing education—outside the field
The best ideas sometimes come from seemingly unrelated topics. Inspiring curiosity in your team means providing opportunities for continuing education. If you have the budget, enroll your team in classes outside the office. Encourage reading outside of their specialty. Consider a group subscription to Blinkist, an app that summarizes hundreds of nonfiction books instantly—perfect for a busy team. Subscribe to a streaming documentary service with curated films that teach them about the world around them. Explore history, technology, science, and space. No matter how you choose to go about it, smart leaders encourage wonder and questions—have regular meetings and discuss what you learn together.
Switch jobs for a day
Schedule a training day once every month or two where everyone in the office trades with someone else to see what it’s like to do a job outside their own department or skill area. Struggling through someone else’s tasks in an unfamiliar context encourages employees to think about how different teams in the company can work together and what they might want to learn to expand their own skills. This practice promotes cross-pollination and empathy and will help employees work better together in the future.
Change the surroundings
It’s been documented that changes in environment help people change habits. When employees do their work at the same desk day in and day out, they fall into routines that can foreclose innovative thinking. Schedule a company brainstorming day at a retreat center in the woods. Exposure to nature relaxes the mind and can open up space for new ideas, and the change in scenery alone will get employees out of their routine thinking patterns.
Organize Group Activities
Creative activities done in groups are a great way to build the levels of engagement and collaborative skills that can produce innovation. Try taking a half-day to do a company-wide (or team, if your company is larger) outing to a murder mystery office party or an escape room. For smaller on-site activities, try one of these exercises for innovation (there are options for both group and individual work).
Build creative time into the schedule
Did you know the inventor of the Post-It Note came up with the idea during work time that was allotted for employees to pursue their own ideas and creations? Since 1948, 3M has given employees “15 percent time” for this purpose. Google made a similar move with a “20% time” program. The key to this plan is to make sure employees have the extra time in their schedules and to set an example by doing it yourself. The ideas employees explore may be directly related to their work or not, and both are equally valuable, as they encourage creative thinking.
A culture of innovation takes time to build. It works best when leadership sets the example and participates in implementing these various approaches. An environment of regular praise and positive reinforcement helps employees take risks, treat failure as a learning experience, and become more invested in the outcomes of applying creative thinking in their jobs and the overall goal of innovation.
Written by: Hilary Thompson
Hilary is a freelance writer, small business owner, and travel junkie. With a background in content strategy, journalism, and business management, she loves to explore solutions for success, in all areas: health, business, parenting, life.