Want Better Business Results? Encourage Your Employees to Be Creative

Do you want more revenue for your company and more satisfaction for your employees? The key is not to get them to work harder or set bigger goals. To get better results, build a culture of creativity.

Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas. This 2010 IBM study showed that, given the pace of change in the work landscape, creativity is essential for success. This 2019 LinkedIn study further proved that creativity is one of the most important job skills for your employees.

So how do you build a culture that’s more creative? You don’t have spin up a major initiative or send all of your employees to creativity school. There are some simple exercises you can do to embed innovation and new ideas into your culture today.

Host a “hackathon”

A “hackathon” is simply an event held within a compressed period–often a day or a weekend–in which teams take a problem or challenge and come up with possible solutions and prototypes. This is a process that originated in technology, but hackathons can be used outside of coding and you don’t have to be a hot startup to initiate one. One of my clients–an old-school luxury goods company–used this structure to come up with an innovative retail experience that ultimately won awards.

The creativity boost is multifaceted. New ideas emerge. Collaboration like this mixes people up so they work with others outside of their day-to-day teams. This helps create a more cohesive and bonded culture and exposes your employees to new ideas. It also helps them develop empathy for others’ day-to-day work lives. Solving problems together has proven benefits for retention and engagement. Plus, it’s fun.

Orchestrating a hackathon is simple. Think of a process that is broken or a challenge your company would like to solve. Divide people up into teams, set some structure and a timeframe, and let them go off and use their imaginations. Set a time later for people to present their results. Remember to celebrate and applaud their efforts, not just their results. The process of trying and creating is actually more important than the outcomes.

Conduct an “inspiration field trip”

Sure, communications workshops by day and a celebration dinner at night are nice ways to bond the team. To help people exercise their imagination, however, take the team on an inspiration field trip.

Almost any environment that’s new and designed to be interesting can spark imagination. You might consider a zoo or an aquarium; any place in nature will work for a hike or a picnic; or you might look into fun experiences such as an amusement park or a quirky place like the Museum of Failure.

When you take people out of their normal environments to unexpected locations, you automatically trigger a state of openness and exploration. The combination of a new environment and some playfulness helps your employees relate to one another and their surroundings in fresh ways. It also creates a shared emotional experience within the team that helps them be more cohesive and connect dots in new ways.

Seed your culture with creative people

To get a creative culture, hire creative people. You don’t need every single person you hire to score an A+ on the creativity scale, but it’s a trait you can emphasize in the hiring process.

Test for elements of creativity in the job interview. Ask potential employees questions that elicit their potential creativity.

Some good questions to tease out someone’s creative potential:

  • What kinds of things are you most curious about?
  • When was a time you took a risk?
  • Tell me about a project that failed. What did you learn?
  • If the most obvious course of action was not available to you, what would you do instead?
  • What was the best day at work you had in the past three months and why?

For all of these questions, notice how people frame their responses. Are they comfortable with risk and do they emphasize learning? Do they say anything that strikes you as surprising? Do they connect dots in unique ways? Those are all markers of someone who can bring originality to your workplace.

Emphasizing creativity in your culture will help your employees thrive and will drive better business results.


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