Hard work pays the bills, but smart work builds a successful business. All of the world’s top companies are made up of problem solvers, forward thinkers and entrepreneurs that each bring their own creative approach to the table. They inspire productivity, engage the workforce, and find innovative solutions that drive business growth. But with everyone so accustomed to adhering to company policies, stringent job descriptions and office etiquette, creative thinking can easily be stifled in the workplace.
So, what can you do to foster a creative culture in your business? Here are three of our top tips.
1. Promote team diversity
In order to build a creative workforce, it’s crucial to bring together a dynamic collection of voices and backgrounds. A recent report by CIPD demonstrated that cultural diversity in teams significantly boosts creativity in comparison to homogenous teams, as colleagues ”are able to share their unique perspectives and experiences”.
However, workplace diversity can be undermined by the intolerance of views that break from the status quo. Socially, we rarely surround ourselves with those with wholly differing experiences and opinions to our own — which can lead us to make prejudgements of colleagues and dismiss their views. This is often unintentional, so say diversity specialists from EW Group. They explain that “many of these assumptions are implicit rather than explicit — that’s what we refer to as ‘unconscious bias’ — and are often displayed subtly and without premeditation or intention.”
Unfortunately, unconscious bias can have a hugely negative impact on the person on the receiving end, affecting their confidence and discouraging them from contributing their ideas in the workplace out of fear of rejection or dismissal. To help prevent this, embed diversity in the core ethos of the business, for example, in providing diversity, equity and inclusion training, celebrating different cultural traditions, or strengthening policies to promote diversity in hiring. This will help mitigate the effects of unconscious bias and ensure that all members of staff feel respected, so that they feel comfortable to share their ideas.
2. Encourage brainstorming and debate
In a recent survey by The Hardin Group, 92% of workplace respondents claimed to consider themselves perfectionists, and a further 86% say that perfectionism impacts their work. In short, we all hold ourselves to high standards — but the vital thing is to not let this self-imposed pressure stop you from getting the job done. Everybody has to start somewhere, and sometimes, we need a little push from our peers to get the ideas flowing.
Informal brainstorming sessions can help to facilitate creative thinking, by providing a regular space for employees to discuss what they’re working on, workshop their plans and debate ideas. This is because collective brainstorming creates a culture of knowledge sharing which is fundamental to creative thinking — pushing members of staff to consider new points of view and develop their own ideas. A good way to get the creative juices flowing is to start with a team warm-up exercise, such as a word association game or by using brainstorming prompts.
However, as companies move away from centralised office-based working, this can be challenging to facilitate in-person. Instead, consider hosting brainstorming calls online using video conferencing tools to engage employees and keep the conversations going outside of the office’s four walls.
3. Reward creative thinking
So, we know that it pays to have creativity in the company from a business point of view, but how does it benefit your staff to go above and beyond? One of the best ways to inspire creativity is to give it intrinsic value to your workers. Some companies choose to award bonuses based on creative pieces of work, for example, by using a sales commission system that pays out to the individuals who see the most interest in their concepts.
As well as this, you can also celebrate the small wins to make each member of staff feel appreciated, and encourage them to push their creativity further. This could be something as simple as circulating emails of praise or instances of positive client feedback, or scheduling the occasional early finish when your team has had great creative output.
Our last recommendation is to put on team-building events. These can benefit the company twofold — firstly, by developing and improving team relationships, and secondly, by boosting the creative efforts that come out of collaboration. Research suggests that when team members get along and support one another as friends, they become more creative. So, aside from taking the pressure off of your staff, team-building exercises can have tangible benefits for your workplace productivity.