In this week’s Power Idea, Senior Strategic Partner, Laura Dillingham, continues our discussion on creativity and innovation with some concrete ideas on how you as leaders can foster this way of thinking and enable your team to bring fresh new ideas that solve problems, create new opportunities and bring improved products, service and support to your clients.

We started this series of Power Ideas on creativity by asking the question: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Do you first have to be creative, in order to be innovative…or, do you need to be innovative to stir up your creativity?

Let’s continue that train of thought by asking what is creativity? Creativity is defined in many ways, but this definition encompasses the essence of it. Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, or patterns and create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, and interpretations. Sounds simple doesn’t it? So how come more organizations aren’t doing it? There are many answers to this question and some reasons may be the fear of the unknown or change, decreasing productivity, losing control or it may even be we don’t know what creativity in the workplace means. However, creativity is essential if you want to keep your business moving forward.

Geoffrey E. Peace, an employee with Faller Davis & Associates, Inc. in Tampa, Florida, was recently a participant in the HPISolutions Virtual Leadership Development Program. During graduation he made a statement that I thought was not only profound, but important to share. He said “the success of our organization is directly tied to our employees and their abilities.” I thought that was a key statement because the creative power behind any company is its people. So what can a supervisor, manager, leader or even an organization do to foster creativity?

Some simple suggestions to start promoting creativity in your workplace are:

  • Create a collaborative environment (work hard/play harder) – create an atmosphere where creativity is encouraged and valued; establish brainstorming sessions, establish an on-line story board that employees can add to or allow them to create their own and share it so others can contribute, set up a place for employees to recharge by stopping and adding a few pieces to a puzzle in a common area, have competitions and give rewards. These are just a few suggestions that will allow opportunities for great ideas, problem-solving and most importantly communication and creativity.
  • Tools and Techniques – Give employees the tools and techniques to come up with new ideas, such as opportunities to look at their environment and make changes. Many companies have changed from desks to computer tables that allow employees to sit or stand when working, created quiet spaces and spaces for collaboration and sharing ideas. Employees have helped choose the layout, colors, artwork and furniture.
  • Recognize, Reward and Celebrate great new ideas – Great new ideas that are recognized, rewarded and celebrated fosters an environment for creativity. Rewards should be meaningful for the employee and should reflect the idea, the employee or team, as well as, the company.
  • Build Understanding – Ensure all employees understand the company’s vision, mission, values, SMART goals, products and services so they can come up with new and relevant ideas that meet the company’s goals or solve problems.

It is important to recognize that many organizations don’t really want people to be creative because they feel it takes too much time or people may come up with ideas that challenge the status quo or cost the company too much money and may even change the way things are done. However, just by supporting open-mindedness, setting up an inspirational environment and offering the right rewards, you can get the creative juices of your team members flowing like never before. Who wins? Everyone does!