Creating a Workplace Culture of Innovation & Creativity
Fall is a season of change and renewal. Summer is over, kids are back to school, and everyone is getting settled back into a routine. Personally, I like to take this time to reflect and check in on what I’ve accomplished so far in the year and where I may be a bit behind. It’s a good time to re-evaluate the goals you set at the beginning of the year, consider setting aside anything that is no longer relevant, and re-commit yourself to the goals you can and want to achieve.
It’s time to inspire some creativity on your team to generate innovative solutions for achieving those goals before year-end. Encouraging and promoting innovation and creativity in your organization is crucial for staying competitive, adapting to changing environments, and fostering a dynamic and engaged workforce. Read on for strategies and best practices to get started.
Prioritize creativity over efficiency
Many organizations institute goals, objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), targets, and more for employees to achieve in order to ace performance reviews or receive bonuses. In turn, employees try to be as efficient as possible so they can achieve their goals as soon as possible. Unfortunately, these practices could be stifling innovation.
"These expectations about what work looks like are dampening creativity for everyone. Today’s organizations need to move away from defining work in terms of efficiency and productivity; creativity is rarely efficient… Creativity that leads to breakthrough innovations often doesn’t look like work, let alone efficient work."
Let’s face it—we probably aren’t going to come up with our most innovative ideas while writing endless emails or losing ourselves in busy work. We need leaders who prioritize innovation as an important organizational goal. Consider offering rewards and recognition that are tied specifically to innovative contributions or launch innovation competitions with prizes for the winning idea.
Create a culture that is accepting of failure
You can’t have a culture of innovation without a culture that accepts—and even encourages—failure. Some organizations even go so far as to set a “minimum failure threshold,” recognizing that breakthroughs are unlikely to happen without some failure along the way. Instead of viewing failure as undesirable, it should be seen as a learning opportunity.
Creativity is cultivated by leaders who value new ideas, experimentation, and the importance of continuous improvement over perfection. Your workers need to feel safe taking calculated risks without fear of punishment if they fail.
"[Gillian] Pillans advises that leaders can establish psychological safety through creating a culture of trust and mutual respect. They can achieve this by practicing behaviors such as being fully present in conversations, being approachable, acknowledging that they don’t know all the answers, and using mistakes as an opportunity for learning."
However, this doesn’t mean you should eliminate accountability. It is still important to track the success of new initiatives, so you know when to pivot or abandon an unsuccessful idea.
Encourage less meetings & more unscheduled time
In today’s world, with so many of us working from home, we feel the need to pack our schedules with meetings to prove we are busy. Some leaders may even have this expectation of their staff. But creativity generally doesn’t stem from back-to-back meetings.
Employees need dedicated time for brainstorming and idea generation. They need the freedom to explore and experiment with those ideas. Organizations can help by creating physical or virtual spaces where employees can work on innovative projects.
If your leaders aren’t encouraging staff to set aside “unscheduled time” to innovate, they will continue to hear that there isn’t any time to be creative.
Inspire a growth mindset through feedback & open communication
Generating creative solutions to a problem cannot happen in a vacuum—it needs to be a back-and-forth process where team members work together to refine and improve an idea until it is ready to launch. At the core of this process is constructive feedback.
"A culture of innovation begins with a growth mindset at all levels of an organization. Employees will embrace constructive criticism if leadership adopts an attitude of continual improvement, mixes constructive criticism with an affirmation of quality work, and accepts employee feedback on corporate policies."
To create a team that is open to giving and receiving honest feedback, you need to establish trust, respect, and open communication among employees and between employees and leadership. Leaders should encourage open communication and idea-sharing among employees. Once a new idea is implemented, employees should convene to evaluate what went well and where improvements could be made.
Looking elsewhere for inspiration
Sometimes innovation may not come directly from your employees—instead, it may come from their (or your) observations of the world around us.
"[Jeremy] Campbell believes that leaders who want to kickstart creativity need to move their thinking from ‘Our world’ to ‘Our world plus’. By that, he means bringing ideas, solutions and innovation into your world from outside your bubble. How have your problems been solved elsewhere? What have other companies done in the same situation? How are they innovating in other sectors? How can technology or data and artificial intelligence (AI) transform your approach?"
Assembling a team with diverse backgrounds, skills, and perspectives can help generate more creative solutions to problems. If that diversity doesn’t exist within your organization, make it a goal, and in the meantime source it externally:
Look to your customers for feedback and ideas—consider their needs, pain points, and preferences.
Adapt to changing market conditions and trends—how is consumer spending changing? How can you adapt to new social and environmental realities?
Use technology to your advantage—research technologies, like artificial intelligence tools, that facilitate creativity and innovation. There is no denying that technology will continue to alter the way we work.
By implementing these strategies, you can begin to create an environment where employees feel empowered to innovate and contribute their creative ideas, ultimately driving growth and success for your organization.
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog post. If you're ready to take the next step in transforming and improving your organization, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're excited to partner with you on this journey.