10 Ways to Boost Creativity at Work
Most companies talk about needing innovation to survive. But more often than not, employees get caught in routines that drain us of our creativity. At its core, creative thinking is the ability to perceive the world in new ways, make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas, and design solutions for complex business needs. Despite what many might believe, creativity isn’t a gift only a select few are born with. Creativity is a teachable skill.
Generating creativity is not a magical, mystical act. Yet, most leaders try to scope creativity by defining the path — who should contribute and how — rather than defining the goal and asking for others to contribute. Cultivating your creative muscles is done through frequent practice. Here are 10 concrete things you can do to boost creativity at work.
1. Host an idea-thon
An idea-thon is essentially a hack-a-thon, but for creative ideas. Ask employees to surface new ideas related to a theme like revenue growth, market growth, or cost savings. Each idea must have a corresponding plan that employees could feasibly execute. This technique saves organizations from having too many of the same ideas.
2. Give people time off
Research published in Harvard Business Review indicates the more pressure people put on themselves, the less likely they’ll be able to think creatively. People need downtime for their most creative ideas to percolate. Encourage time off and watch as employees return to work with a fresh perspective and the mind space to be creative.
3. Promote psychological safety
One of the most important ways leaders can foster psychological safety with their teams is by actively listening and engaging in conversations. Being inclusive in interpersonal settings is another key to establishing psychological safety. Managers can start by asking their team how they like to work. Do they want to have blocks of uninterrupted time for deep focus? Do they have regularly scheduled times when they’ll be away from their desk and unavailable? Feeling safe and supported at work leads to more creativity.
4. Create space for making connections
Knowledge alone isn’t enough to spark creativity. The secret to unlocking inspiration, and seeing the world through different eyes, is by making new connections between the pieces of information you already have. To facilitate that, you have to create space for those connections to happen. Whether it’s a dedicated Slack channel, cross-functional meetings between teams, or utilizing a whiteboard, the goal is to guide everyone toward a shared goal, build upon everyone’s ideas, and find unexpected connections.
Feeling like you’re stuck in a rut is not an uncommon feeling, especially after a challenging day (or month, or year). That’s why so many companies have introduced mindful meditation practices to their employees. Not only is meditation useful as a stress-reduction tool, but it can also enhance creativity. Studies have found that mindfulness mediation enhances creativity and innovation, and 10 to 12 minutes of it are enough to boost creativity.
6. Break the routine
We are often at our most creative when confronted with something new. A new project, job, or problem to solve. Creativity can fade when we get bored or discouraged. In some ways, routine can be the enemy of getting the creative juices flowing because so much creativity occurs at the intersection of different people and ideas. So, capitalize on obstacles. Meet new people at work. Talk to new clients. Learn something new. You won’t just add to your resume; you’ll have many wells to pull creative inspiration from.
7. Transform the physical space
Physical workspaces can transform people’s attitudes and work experiences. When people lock themselves in their offices all day, it doesn’t promote community and innovation. Setting up physical elements like furniture and fixtures matters. Start small. Even switching a rectangle table in a shared space out for a round table can be more inviting.
8. Foster outside interests
Rather than trying to have employees compartmentalize their interests and passions outside of work, you should be encouraging them. This can come in the form of an educational stipend that employees could use on something that would refuel them creatively, whether it’s an art class or a movie ticket. Don’t overthink it. Just look for ways to support your employees when they express their outside interests.
9. Remove the fear of failure
People tend to be pretty risk-averse, especially when it comes to their careers. It’s no surprise only 18% of employees feel they can take risks at work that could lead to new solutions. One of the keys to boosting workplace creativity is removing the fear of failure. The most innovative work environments are ones where people are encouraged to create, fail, and try again. Another aspect of eliminating the fear of failure is creating clear lines of communication and encouraging constructive feedback. It’s also important to suggest ways to improve upon someone’s ideas and ask questions to encourage reflection.
10. Make time for creativity
From executives to artists, the most critical part of creativity is making time for it. To boost creativity, you must treat it as if it is part of your job. Discipline can make creativity a more readily accessible resource; making time for it daily brings it into the real world and less of an abstract idea. Scheduling time for creativity ensures that it happens, shows that creativity is a cultural value to the organization, and gives managers something tangible to measure.
Building a culture of creativity
Which suggestion are you most excited to implement first? Did any of the tips spark an idea?
For more ideas on building creativity with your teams, download the How to Cultivate Creativity at Work workbook.