There was a time—not so long ago—when the concept of creativity was considered the realm of the artist, or something encouraged in a child. Creativity was nothing more than a fanciful imagination that was unrelated to the hard and fast rules of operating a business in the real world.
However, we are moving into a new era of business, and the most successful organizations have come to realize that it is creativity that drives innovation and creates the type of working environment that lures and retains employees.
CEOs in today’s organizations are beginning to see the value of creativity. According to Fast Company, 60 percent of CEOs polled said they felt creativity was the most important leadership skill, ranking higher than both integrity and global thinking.
Another study conducted by Adobe revealed that fewer than half of the global respondents considered themselves creative, and a mere 25 percent of respondents felt they were living up to their creative potential. In fact, 75 percent of global respondents felt that they were under more pressure to be productive—rather than creative—in their job. Yet, 80 percent of people surveyed felt that creativity is the key driver of economic growth.
With these statistics in mind, it is critical for organizations and employers to take a new approach to their business model, and find innovative ways to foster creativity in the workplace. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, starting with the cultivation of a creativity culture that will foster innovation and encourage collaboration and creativity. But first, let’s take a look at the benefits of focusing more on creativity in the workplace.
The benefits of a creative culture
The 21st century has brought with it the need for organizations to cope with increasing amounts of complexity. A cookie cutter approach is no longer enough to excel and move ahead as a leader in innovation. Leaders are now realizing that more than just analysis and logic are needed for problem-solving. Creativity may be the key.
Dictionary.com defines creativity as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.” In a nutshell, if you want to be creative, you need to be original and avoid the status quo.
It has been common for quite some time in the corporate world to expect leaders to be creative when problem-solving and finding new ideas and innovations, but this view of creativity is shifting to a team approach. When the entire team is given creative freedom, it leads to a host of benefits:
1. Improved inter- and intra-team relationships
Clear Company reports the following statistics relating to teamwork in the average workplace:
- 75 percent of employers say teamwork and collaboration are very important.
- 39 percent of employees feel that there is not enough collaboration in their organization.
- 97 percent of employees and executives believe that when team members are not aligned, this has a negative impact on the outcome of a project or task.
2. Easier to attract and retain the best talent in the industry
According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016:
- 25 percent of millennials that are currently employed expect to leave their jobs within the year.
- Two-thirds of millennials plan to leave their jobs by 2020.
- Pay was the most important factor in the choice of employment at 22 percent, followed closely by having a good work/life balance at 16.8 percent.
3. Increased productivity and profits
The Millennial Survey indicates that 76 percent of millennials whose work culture is creative and inclusive say they have a high level of productivity. The survey results indicate that organizations with higher employee engagement outperformed their peers by 147 percent when it comes to earnings per share.
The question that remains is how to change your office environment and operation to provide a creative environment. Start by cultivating a culture of creativity and creating an office environment that encourages creative thinking and collaboration.
Cultivate a culture of creativity
If you have ever had the pleasure of walking into a workplace that has a creative culture, you know how it feels and what it looks like. There is an energy you don’t find in the traditional office environment. There is an air of excitement. People are buzzing around, chatting, deep in thought, working on something that they have been inspired to take on, or letting off some excess energy in a fun way.
According to Talent Culture, in 2014, companies were finding they had low rates of employee engagement, yet innovative companies have been revamping their company culture to increase a sense of “inclusion and camaraderie.” This approach encourages employees to contribute their ideas and feedback, making them more invested in the company.
Here are ways in which you can transition your organization from a more traditional setting to one that values creativity.
Encourage creative thinking
It is critical for today’s organizations to foster and encourage the creativity of every employee. CiC reveals that organizations can accomplish this through supporting the creative process by allowing employees to:
- Question assumptions.
- Be curious, take risks, and make mistakes.
- Actively search for inspiration through research, discussion, and experience.
- Take the time to find patterns and meaning in sources of inspiration.
- Explore different ideas and experiment to develop top solutions, approaches, products, and services.
- Go through a rollout process that allows them to refine their ideas and make adjustments where needed.
Offer a collaborative and fun environment
Create an environment in which face-to-face relationships are developed and collaboration takes place. Break down the silos that hold departments in and keep them secluded from each other. Give employees the opportunity to get together, have fun, and flesh out ideas in an environment in which they can get away from the every day and see what is happening in other areas of the company.
Provide freedom within boundaries
Every organization still needs to meet deadlines and productivity targets, but is there only one way to accomplish this? It is becoming increasingly common in innovative organizations to allow their employees the freedom to meet these deadlines and targets in whatever way they feel works best for them.
TechRepublic suggests providing this freedom to employees while setting clear boundaries in terms of performance, consumer, and brand expectations. Mindflash CEO Donna Wells discussed her company’s flexible work policy and offered an example of its success. When one employee worked from Mexico for a month while visiting his wife’s family after their baby was born, Wells said, “Honestly, since he usually works from Seattle, many HQ employees didn’t even know where he was that month, which, in my opinion, is a great measure of the success of this experience.”
This method might require employees and managers to develop new skills that allow them to work in a non-traditional manner, but—when done properly—it can yield greater efficiency and productivity and will ultimately provide better results and increased innovation.
A recent EY Insight discusses the need for organizations to move away from a consensus method of operation and encourage diversity amongst their employees. With diversity, there is an increase in team-led problem-solving and creativity, which leads to an overall improvement in performance. EY also cites research conducted by Henley Management College and Ford Germany that shows the more heterogeneous a team is, the more creativity is exhibited, resulting in higher thought processes.
Forbes echoes the need for diversity in employees in a Forbes Insights report that highlights key findings from a survey of executives who are responsible for diversity and inclusion in their companies. Of the respondents employed by companies making over $10 billion in revenues per year, 56 percent of executives strongly agreed that diversity drives innovation.
Rosalind Hudnell, director of global diversity and inclusion at Intel, says, “Because of our diverse workforce, we’ve experienced a boost in productivity. When you can move people to contribute to their fullest, it has a tremendous impact.” The overall results of the survey indicate that diversity is a critical driver of innovation and necessary for global success.
With so much pointing to the positive influence of diversity on creativity, think about hiring people that have different experiences, education, backgrounds, and qualifications.
Creativity in the office environment
Let’s face it, the cubicle is outdated. No one wants to drag themselves into work every day to sit at a desk in a tiny space in the corner, cut off from the rest of the office. If you want to foster a creative culture, your office environment has to reflect this new approach.
Today’s more progressive and innovative organizations are coming up with amazing office spaces that are designed to bring people together. These designs often combine open spaces, comfortable seating areas, community work areas, bright colors, modern furniture, and fun activity centers to create an atmosphere in which coworkers can collaborate, throw ideas around, chat, and even take a break and bond in a social setting.
Take a look at some of the cool office environments Forbes showcases. Their article outlines what some of the most innovative companies are doing to inspire collaborative and creative environments:
- Google provides a slide at one of their office locations, allowing employees to slide down from one floor to the next.
- Microsoft provides a comfortable seating area and huge touchscreen tablet for discussion, collaboration, and exploration.
- Epic has a hallway in their office that is designed to look like a subway.
- Infosys installed a bowling alley in one of their offices to allow employees to take a break and have some fun.
- Box installed swings in one area of their office so employees can swing while they chat and collaborate.
Ultimately, it is time for a new era in the workplace—an era of creativity that will redefine how organizations function. By reviewing the corporate culture and the office environment to place more emphasis on creativity, organizations are reaping the benefits and becoming leaders in their respective industries.
Join the movement, embrace your employees’ inner child, and let the creative juices flow.