Cultivating creativity in the workplace

The hidden strategy you need

What’s the leading quality that top leaders look for in job candidates? An entrepreneurial spirit, stewardship, adaptability, grit? Despite what you may have heard, leaders believe that creativity will be the third most important work skill by 2020. That’s correct – artistry lands in the top spot according to CEOs; they are seeking out individuals that can develop imaginative, innovative ideas and turn them into hard reality.

The benefits of being creative at work are multifarious. For starters, promoting imaginative thinking at work oftentimes removes the oh-so-present fear of failing. Take a common task in the workplace, such as brainstorming new product ideas. To do this successfully, you must remove the barriers, be receptive to out-of-the-box concepts, and stop closing yourself off to fresh solutions- both your own, and others. When you accept that the space is creative and no idea is a bad idea, the fear of failing diminishes. Your mind opens and you can truly embrace the freedom of failing – after all, it’s just creative, off-the-wall, thinking. And, on that note, failure that occurs in the search of unprecedented ideas should be celebrated. It’s how businesses grow, learn and develop.

Additionally, when you work together to muster up new ideas, it generates a close-knit community with co-workers, leading to better teamwork. Workplace engagement and interaction rises. Problem-solving doesn’t seem quite as daunting as it once was. Productivity accelerates because you are leveraging and harnessing creative abilities of not just one, but numerous, people. Passion seeps through the pores of your business and collaboration is organically conceived.

Kate Goodman, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver, notes that if an organization is looking to change, adapt, and improve, it is absolutely essential to explore new ideas in a creative climate.

“It sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget that the first idea is rarely the best one … To get the best ideas to come out, be discussed and explored, and sometimes, for multiple ideas to be developed to some extent, you must have a creative culture” Goodman says.

What kind of environment is the most conducive to feeding the creative beast? Goodman states that teams where trust is high is the most potent. She notes that a trusted, creative atmosphere “leaves open the possibility of doing something in a new way, and it energizes teams.” When teams are not rewarded as a group, but only as an individual, they oftentimes stop sharing ideas and this kills off creativity. She notes that competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the team needs to view the “opponent” as another company or entity, not one another.

“Research suggests that creativity only grows when we use it … You should allow your teams to come up with both a ‘proven winner’ and an ‘off-the-wall’ solution for more typical tasks,” Goodman says. Later, they will be better able to come up with a new, innovative solution when it is needed the most because they’ll have practiced working creatively as a team.

Developing new solutions at work is a challenge for all of us. Are you noticing the “because we have always done it that way” monster has been rearing its tired head far too often? If so, Goodman will be delivering a seminar on how to spark creativity in the workplace on Tuesday, Oct. 9, from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the University of Colorado South Denver.

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