Cheerful businesswoman points to post-it note on wall as colleagues look on

How to promote creativity in the workplace

Posted on: December 8, 2023

The World Economic Forum lists ‘creativity, originality and initiative’ and ‘complex problem-solving’ as two of 10 key skills that will be needed in the world of work by 2025.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur launching a start-up or a leader looking for ways to promote creativity among team members, understanding why creativity is essential – and how to foster an environment in which it can thrive – could pave the way to business success.

Why is it important to promote creativity at work?

Creative workplaces are settings that provide far-reaching benefits – for individual employees, the organisations they work for, and the customers and markets they serve. Creativity isn’t just for individuals working in the creative industries; creative people exist among all industries, in different departments, job functions, and levels.

Some of the many benefits of creativity in the workplace:

  • Innovation. Creative thinking often results in new ideas and inventive, innovative solutions. This might look like new products or services, or technological capabilities that enhance efficiency.
  • Employee engagement. Environments and opportunities that empower and encourage employees to be creative can increase job satisfaction, wellbeing, and sense of purpose. In turn, this can lead to increased staff retention and a better, more productive work environment.
  • Problem solving. Every industry has its issues – from healthcare and financial services to e-commerce and logistics – and teams that can develop creative solutions are highly prized. From a team member streamlining a cumbersome process, developing a solution to a customer pain point, or identifying a new source of income, creative ideas and ways of thinking are foundational to solving issues within organisations.
  • Competitive edge. Organisations that foster creativity increase their odds of spotting new opportunities, boosting adaptability and resilience, and constantly evolving, iterating, and improving to enhance their practices and outputs.
  • Teamwork. Creativity encourages collaboration, values diverse teams, perspectives, and ideas, and embeds the concept of collective success.
  • Personal and professional development. Creative processes, initiatives and cultures can help individuals to acquire new skills and grow in confidence and experience.

Organisations that seek to increase creativity may also see positive results in areas such as customer experience, recruitment of talent, brand recognition, and organisational sustainability and longevity. All of these benefits of workplace creativity – both individually and collectively – have the potential to help achieve business objectives, drive growth, and boost bottom-line profits.

In contrast, work environments, processes and policies that stifle creativity are likely to stagnate, and see growth, innovation and wider advantages suffer as a result.

What role does team culture play in increasing creativity?

Team culture is often a reflection of wider company culture, and can have a profound impact on the nature, extent and success of creative ventures and efforts.

Deloitte describe team culture as ‘the cradle of creativity’. Building a meaningful, authentic team culture that promotes creative thinking – and nurtures creative people – may require deliberate, strategic intervention. Naturally, leadership and management plays a critical role; not only will employees take cues from leadership about what is, or isn’t, considered valuable, but leaders and managers are generally the ones who can create the right working environments and practices that allow creativity to flourish.

Cultures that feature open communication, diversity, collaboration, healthy work-life balance, and spaces for experimentation create the ideal conditions for creative thinking. Let’s take a closer look at how business leaders can establish, and build on, team culture in order to increase creativity on a broader scale.

How can creativity be promoted in the work environment?

Adobe’s State of Create report overviews the new demands on the creative landscape arising from the Covid-19 pandemic:

“There’s more pressure to stay relevant to customers with new ideas and produce work that stands out from the competition”.

In this context, business leaders must proactively work to help to harness the creativity of their workforces. But how do they go about this?

  • Automation. Automate laborious and time-consuming manual and administrative processes to lighten team workload and carve out time for employees to focus on creative, problem-solving ventures. Additionally, employees who are overworked, stressed and struggling to keep up with their regular workload are unlikely to have the inclination or headspace to come up with new, innovative ideas, so consider ways in which job responsibilities could be adapted and work-life balance enhanced.
  • Workday design. Creative focus time can be factored into business-as-usual practices. At WeWork, leaders implemented a 20% free-time programme to enable their employees to use 20% of their week to ‘work on a project of their choice to develop a competency that’s tied to a company goal.’ Outside of this type of initiative, organising brainstorming and idea-sharing sessions can produce great results.
  • Workspace and office design. Physically re-organising the layout of work environments – including empowering employees to contribute to workspace design – can stimulate creativity and collaboration. For example, facilitating spaces that enable employees of different status levels, backgrounds and functions to interact more freely, and generally creating pleasant, inviting and inspiring spaces. With the increase in remote working since the pandemic, consider how employees in other set-ups can access creative spaces.
  • Psychological safety. This refers to an environment in which employees are encouraged to share creative and innovative ideas without the fear of judgment. This includes the freedom to make mistakes, articulate opinions, give feedback, be vulnerable, and speak ‘truth to power’. Implementing a psychological safety net for employees helps to foster a stronger, creatively empowered community.
  • Risk-taking. Concentrate on developing a culture of healthy, informed risk-taking that promotes continuous learning. Give employees the clear objectives, resources and support they need to engage in creative risk-taking, and then celebrate both the successes and failures that come from their efforts.
  • Rewards and incentives. As with any effort or achievement, creativity – whether large or small – deserves to be recognised and rewarded. In doing so, leaders can encourage their teams to keep innovating and pushing boundaries at work. Rewards could include performance-based rewards, public acknowledgement, or progression and development opportunities.

At the same time, avoid systems, situations and behaviours that act as barriers to creativity. This often includes:

  • micromanaging
  • lack of autonomy
  • meaningless work
  • excessive constraints
  • risk aversion
  • rigid hierarchies.

Encourage creative problem-solving and innovation to achieve business goals

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