Creativity is a skill that all people possess. How we express and utilize that creativity differs from person to person, and like all other skills, can be improved upon with practice. But how does one practice creativity? More importantly, how can you use creativity to promote growth and long term success?
Creativity is paramount to innovation, growth and improvement within an organization and a big part of the creative process is actually a social endeavor. Two heads are better than one; is a very well-known cliché for a reason. We need input from others to help identify problems. We need people who see the big picture and those who dwell in the details. We need the folks who think in black and white and those who only see shades of grey (no relation to the novel). The point here is that we need many different thinking minds to develop the best possible solution in order to work toward improvement and set into motion steady progress.
Some might think that creativity is a solo act or an attribute of those who are gifted artistically. We often think of writers and painters locking themselves in their studio or office for hours as they develop their next masterpiece, but being artistic is vastly different than being creative, and it’s an important to distinction to make. While I was sitting through a creativity seminar, our speaker was the founder of the Creative Research Laboratory at Western Oregon University. He told us that he himself has very little artistic ability, but through his work he has proven to be incredibly creative. While parts of the creative process can be accomplished alone, I’m going to indulge you in the part of creativity that is group oriented, as in, within a workplace. You can achieve the part of creativity that is responsible for growth, innovation and success by providing your employees a safe environment, including a team of various mindsets, being open to change, identifying strengths, and ensuring that everyone is working towards a common goal.
CULTIVATE THE CREATIVE ENVIRONMENT
One of the biggest organizational impediments to creativity found in companies, both large and small, may be that their culture or environment does not comfortably allow creative interactions to take place. Maybe your boss/employee roles are too strict thus employees are afraid to bring up new ideas for fear of getting shut down because it’s “not their job”. Is there too much micromanaging going on? Micromanaging is a serious creativity killer. Allow your team a little breathing room and trust that the person you hired will get the job done right or maybe even find ways to improve it. Perhaps it just comes down to needing a little space and time to get together, do a mind mapping activity and really get the ideas flowing. You can find group activities like Mind Mapping and others here. Changing up the environment or culture of your work place can be easy or difficult depending on your organizational structure or other impediments relative to your business. The good news? All you have to do is grab a colleague or friend and start identifying what’s holding you back from providing a creative environment. This brings us to, drum roll please….
I won’t bore you with another cliché, but….teamwork really does make the dream work. Teamwork is absolutely essential to this part of the creative process. Each person on your “dream team” should rarely agree with each other. I know, what? How can a team work together and be successful if they don’t agree? Well, because agreeing is not creative; However a respectful discourse and open evaluation is. I don’t mean the team will never agree on anything, but look at it this way, each person has different experiences in life and, not only perceives these experiences differently, responds to them differently as well. It’s a part of our human nature to base our present ideas and interactions off of previous experiences, influences and interactions. Therefore, each team member should have a different perspective on any given problem and thus a different way to solve it. The way to manipulate this is to refer you back to ENVIRONMENT. We all think differently from one another, we only need a space to express our original ideas in a way that is constructive and encourages original thought. You never know what great ideas Paul, the part-time office assistant has, if he doesn’t feel like he has room to express them. Paul could have the answer to your biggest problem.
IDENTIFY THE 4 CREATIVE BEHAVIORS
There are four identified behaviors in the creative process: problem finding; idea generating; idea evaluating and information gathering. Let’s keep talking about Paul for a minute. Let’s say Paul happens to be really great at coming up with original ideas when he is presented with a problem; He is not so great however at actually identifying problems. Enter Katlyn. She’s in upper management and is a great “problem finder”. Now, we have someone to identify the problems and someone who generates ideas to solve them. Next, we need a person who does really well with gathering information. Research is paramount because it gives your team a broad range of knowledge that expertise will not necessarily offer. Information gathering helps increase the range of your knowledge so you can connect it to the depth of your knowledge. Finally, we need a team mate who excels in choosing the best ideas that Paul has come up with. Idea evaluation is super important because it allows the team to vet and analyze each idea to predict to the best of their ability, which solution will likely be most successful. In this example, Paul, Katlyn and our two other team members make up our “dream team” of the creative process. In most cases, people on your team will have varying levels of capabilities within each behavior, but learning which ones they are more apt to do will help you figure out where they fit in to your company’s creative process. By utilizing each person’s strength and working as team in an environment that is safe, encouraging and supports innovation, Paul and Katlyn’s company is well on their way to see not only organizational growth, but happy and valued employees. Hello, retention!
OPEN UP TO CHANGE
This is a big one and it may not be easily accomplished. We live in an ever changing world and how you react to change can make or break you. Think of the technology revolution, those that did not jump on the digital band wagon and chose to stick with their traditional means of sales, development, marketing, finance, etc. were quick to fall behind their competitors who utilized current advances. Keeping up with Paul and Katlyn, it won’t matter how many problems Katlyn identifies or how great Paul’s solutions are if your mindset about change is negative. Opening up to new ideas and allowing you to take the risk(s) associated could deem extremely valuable. If you’re not much of a risk taker or if you’re in a position where risky endeavors sound too stressful to ponder, then you can appreciate how important the concept of idea evaluation is. You can minimize your risk while still implementing new ideas by being absolutely sure you have properly vetted and discussed each idea thoroughly. We all may deal with change differently, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not dealing with it at all. Be open to explore new ideas and remember that the excuse of “well it’s how we’ve always done things” is not said by people who value innovation and creativity which are the leading factors to organizational growth and improvement.
WORK TOWARDS A COMMON GOAL
What happens when your employees are not on the same page? Chaos is what happens. By making sure your team has a solid understanding of company goals, you are ensuring that all ideas and actions will be relevant and consistent to those goals. Keep your employees on track and be transparent with the company’s expectations and progress. This doesn’t mean that all employees need to know every tiny development or hindrance, but keep the team up to date on how the goal is progressing as a whole. Let them know what ideas are needed and what ideas are being implemented, it will help them to feel the importance of their position and the value they bring to the company.
You can use creativity to promote growth and long term success within your organization by utilizing these five factors. We live in an often unpredictable, ever changing world and by cultivating a creative workplace, you’re on the path of least resistance for better ideas, solutions and more predictable outcomes. Some of these strategies may be asking you to change your environment, your internal structure or even your mind, but when you embrace the creative nature of your employees, you’re embracing your company’s full potential for success.
This article is partially based off the “5 P’s of Creativity” developed, in part, by David Foster and The Creative Research Laboratory at Western Oregon University.
Written by: Jessie Medina, Client Success Manager, Confident Staffing, Inc.