Focus on Competencies: Creativity & Innovation

When connecting with companies of all types, I regularly encounter workers who insist they are not creative even though they often solve problems in different ways and find solutions that aren’t always obvious. They couldn’t be more wrong. This type of problem-solving is the very essence of creativity in the workplace.

There’s a common misconception that you have to be an artist or a lofty innovator like Walt Disney or Steve Jobs to be a creative contributor at your organization. But there’s a more tactical, day-to-day type of creativity and innovation that is vital to the success of every company.

Strong problem-solvers are able to work around obstacles and challenges, ultimately driving the types of solutions that create healthy and nimble companies. Conversely, organizations that fail to cultivate creativity and innovation can quickly become stagnant and feel very bureaucratic and closed off.

Common refrains in these types of rigid organizations are “we’ve been here longer” or “you don’t understand, this is the way we’ve always done it.” Historical knowledge is indeed valuable, but too much focus on past practices can prevent an organization from ever moving forward.

Don’t be afraid of change. Without it, your organization will never reach its full potential. Here are a few tips to jump-start that creative spark and get the innovation pipeline moving at your company.

Encourage People to Seek Out New Experiences

One way to inspire your team to be more creative is to have them seek new experiences. And they don’t have to be directly work-related. For example, an organization might send an employee who designs cars to an art class that isn’t directly related to their job.

Other examples include personal or professional travel, field trips to other departments or outside companies, industry conferences and cross-functional team experiences. When we travel, or just get exposed to new things, we start naturally linking up new ideas. This can often lead to discoveries of how to apply new ideas and approaches to current work.

Embrace the Brainstorm

Brainstorming sessions that allow team members to offer creative ideas and solutions to improve the business are great ways to increase value and competitiveness. These types of sessions are also an excellent way to demonstrate to your employees that their opinions and ideas are welcomed and valued, which can increase engagement and foster a flatter organizational structure that drives innovation.

Some structure is important, even with brainstorms. These sessions work best when you carve out a dedicated time for the process; this allows participants to prepare, which is particularly important for introverted team members who may like to gather their thoughts before presenting new ideas. It also helps to create a motivating business case for the brainstorm, and to use fun games or techniques to encourage participation.

Reward Creativity

It’s not enough to merely say you support creativity and innovation. You must create a process for generating innovative ideas to improve your business. Encourage and acknowledge all creative ideas offered and avoid reflexively shutting down suggestions that don’t seem practical. Examples include asking team members to offer at least one creative idea or solution per quarter, or hosting an idea contest.

Make sure you have a path for successful implementation of all those ideas and to reward people for developing and executing on them. When implementing new ideas, start with a rollout plan that focuses on the benefits of the solution. Work to get early buy-in from stakeholders who can make or break the new idea, and develop a feedback loop to keep track of what is working so you can make adjustments.

Learn From Others

When trying to develop new solutions, it sometimes helps to seek out perspectives from friends, focus groups or subject matter experts. Also, consider consulting with individuals of different backgrounds to gather a more diverse view.

Occasionally when I’m in search of a new idea, I’ll start with some research of other brands to see what they’re doing. I typically focus on brands that I respect and consider what specifically I like about their particular strategy. The brand doesn’t have to be within the same industry or even in the same realm of your problem. The process is really about exploring something that for some reason has resonated with you and seeing what you can learn from that.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to effectively generate creative and innovative ideas that drive an effective and competitive organization.

Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.