What springs to mind when you think about creativity? You may have thought about arts and crafts, writing, brainstorming, or delivering literal creative work for clients.
But fostering creativity in the workplace is about more than physical output. Building a creative work environment for your employees can make them better problem solvers, driving innovation and growth for your business.
So, how can you improve creativity at work?
The benefits of creativity in the workplace
Encouraging creativity has a bunch of benefits for employees, their managers, and the business as a whole. Creativity breeds flexibility in thinking, helping workers come up with unique ideas and solutions to problems.
Managers who want to foster creativity in the workplace will no doubt be aware that this can only increase engagement, productivity, and teamwork. Altogether, a creative work environment improves the health of a business, with increased team morale helping retain your best employees and attract new talent. Many CEOs consider creativity to be one of the most important qualities of a leader.
10 ways to inspire creativity
Let’s look at how to encourage innovation and creativity in the workplace.
1. Create a stimulating atmosphere
Setting up an atmosphere of creativity provides a stimulating environment for employees, helping spark new ideas and facilitate creative thinking. From clever office design to providing the tools teams need to brainstorm ideas, there are lots of ways you can set up a creative workplace atmosphere.
Businesses renowned for their creativity, such as design agencies, entertainment companies like Netflix, and children’s brands like Lego, tend to reside in offices purpose-built to encourage creativity. These offices often boast sound-proofed rooms for quiet thinking, bright colors, and clever architecture that provides stimulation throughout the workday.
Yet, not all companies can set up their offices like this. If your company is more cubical than characterful, don’t worry — there are still ways to build a creative atmosphere.
Simple changes can be hugely effective. Hanging art on the walls, adding a fresh coat of colorful paint to meeting rooms, or filling the office with rich green plants are all easy ways to inspire creativity.
Ask employees what gets their brains whirring and inspire them to decorate their workspace accordingly. The goal is to create a workplace that workers find stimulating and comfortable, so it’s worth including them in the discussion.
2. Make creativity a priority
When workplace research firm Gallup looked into what fosters creativity, they found that three key factors drive creativity in the workplace.
Firstly, there must be an expectation that workers will be creative. While putting pressure on employees can be counterproductive, encouraging creativity from every individual — whether they’re a data analyst or designer — and making it an expectation of every job role helps workers develop skills associated with creative thinking.
Secondly, workers need time to be creative. Reworking processes to allow room for brainstorming and deep work will stop workers from taking the easiest route because they don’t have time to consider more innovative solutions.
Lastly, workers need freedom. Creativity requires risk-taking, and if employees aren’t given opportunities to take risks, they will continue to deliver work based on pre-established boundaries.
3. Encourage unique voices
Sometimes, employees hesitate to share their ideas because they’re worried they’ll be rejected. If a business’s senior leadership is renowned for shutting down suggestions from more junior employees, workers will avoid thinking critically about their work. This risks an entire workforce operating on autopilot, which can lead to boreout. For businesses that want to inspire creativity, this is the worst-case scenario.
Instead, make sure it’s clear that the business values employees’ opinions and wants to hear their thoughts. Employees want to feel valued, which helps motivation and engagement.
There are several ways to gather suggestions from employees. It’s always worth allowing workers to share their ideas and views anonymously to encourage honesty, with many tools such as SurveyMonkey helping businesses collect anonymous feedback from their staff.
To grow transparency amongst the team, set up a regular meeting during which employees can share ideas for improvements and push senior leaders to operate an open-door policy, allowing greater collaboration across the business.
4. Create new partnerships
On a micro level, we have inter-team collaboration. When teams work in silos, they avoid sharing information with other groups across the business, leading to communication breakdown and an absence of creative thinking. Collaboration is key to innovation, but if teams aren’t talking, that becomes an impossibility.
The solution is to facilitate collaboration between teams, regardless of whether they have cause to work together or not. The result is better teamwork, a more motivated workforce, and — yes — greater opportunities for creativity. You never know what fresh ideas these new relationships will lead to.
5. Prioritize diversity
Diversity should always be our first thought, not an afterthought. If your business lacks diversity in its team, this will, without a doubt, hinder your growth.
Prioritizing diversity when building a team means your employees will have a wide array of experiences and backgrounds to draw from when approaching problems. Having too many workers with the same experiences limits creativity because they’ll likely take a similar approach to the situation.
Diversity covers everything from cultural backgrounds and gender to work experience and education. The more unique perspectives you have, the greater the opportunities for creativity.
6. Make good ideas a reality
As mentioned, failing to act on good ideas will demotivate your workforce. If you don’t act on your employees’ fantastic suggestions, they’ll simply stop sharing them.
When acting on a suggestion, let the employee know. If the idea is a success, give them credit for their work and share this amongst the wider team. In the same vein, if the idea doesn’t lead to a good outcome, avoid placing any blame on the employee or mentioning it to their colleagues. The more positive results you share, the more your team will be willing to share their ideas.
7. Arrange creative days
Sometimes, a little external inspiration is all we need to get going. Creative days are popular amongst creative agencies, but they can also help inspire corporate teams. This suggestion draws from the concept of Artist Dates, popularized by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way.
Creative days needn’t be complicated, but they can be fun if you’re adventurous. Creative thinking activities for employees can include trips to museums or exhibitions. Even if life drawing classes or pottery workshops aren’t relevant to your output, getting creative (literally) will engage your frontal cortex, also known as the center of creativity, and get your team thinking differently.
8. Encourage creative development
Whereas creative days are for the team, encouraging creative development focuses on the individual. Around three in four people don’t feel they’re living up to their full creative potential, so it’s important to provide opportunities for workers to be creative, even if their job role doesn’t traditionally demand it.
Studies have shown that being creative helps you better process emotions, reducing anxiety and sharpening your mind. From reading a book a month or trying out new crafts, there are lots of fun, easy and inexpensive ways to embolden your team to develop their creativity.
9. Facilitate knowledge sharing
Knowledge sharing goes a long way to inspiring creativity in the workplace. Your diverse team will have a huge array of experiences and knowledge. But what good is that if they don’t share this?
Facilitate knowledge sharing by setting up initiatives where team members share their ideas, experiences, and knowledge with their colleagues. One way to do this is to arrange for a different employee to run a workshop on their specific area of expertise, interest, or culture each month. While there’s no expectation for the whole workforce to become experts, knowledge sharing can be fun, engaging, and inspiring.
Plus, when we understand our colleague’s perspectives and ways of working, it’s easier to collaborate effectively and help our teammates problem-solve.
10. Invest in great tools
Lastly, workers may not be arriving at creative solutions because they don’t have the technologies or resources to do so.
Do you provide the physical resources they need to brainstorm effectively? Consider kitting your meeting rooms out with A3 sketch pads, colorful markers, and sticky notes — everything a team needs to get the creative juices flowing.
Access to the right technology opens up new avenues for creativity and innovation, depending on your industry and each employee’s role. For example, this can cover anything from databases for research and image banks to project management software and creative tools.
Forecast and its integrated intelligence help you focus on doing your best (and most creative) work ever, find out more about how Forecast can help make every project count.