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What are you doing to nourish creativity in your workplace?

What are you doing to nourish creativity in your workplace?

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Creativity cannot be forced, but it can always be fostered. It all comes down to how you, as a company, can nurture creativity within the environment that surrounds you.

Fostering innovation is a big challenge for companies, most often trying to use the physical office space to help make the workplace more creative, when more times then not, innovation is simply tied to company culture. It’s no wonder that big name internet and social media firms are trying everything from hi-tech sleep pods to lavish mini golf courses in the hopes of developing work environments that foster innovative behavior and freedom of thinking.

Creative employees can help grow your business by coming up with better solutions to problems, expanding sales opportunities, and distinguishing your brand and services from competitors.

In order to foster a creative workplace environment, first you have to help spark creative thinking in your employees. Many people forget how to let their minds run wild and come up with innovative ideas. Give them a little help by encouraging the right mindset to take hold. Try these ways to allow a creative thoughts to come through.

 

  1. Ask “what if?”

Many authors have written books that explore the magic of “what if?”. What if you took a large black marker and wrote “what if?” on the office walls? Would you have an office full of more creative employees? Under the clock, next to a window, or near the coffee machine would all be good places to post this question. It’s a deceptively simple exercise, and it’s a great way to help employees open up their creative thought processes. Give them some reminders to take their thinking in new directions by putting the question right in front of them. Soon, they’ll be thinking this way all the time, and your business can benefit from the results.

 

  1. Set the stage for brainstorming

When employees have a wide-open whiteboard to work with, you never know what ideas might come up. When they have several empty slates, with plenty of markers and opportunities to brainstorm, your business can reap the rewards.

Another idea is to put sheets of white paper down on the break room tables. If there are pens nearby, employees can jot something down as they eat their lunch or have a cup of coffee. They may even end up in an impromptu brainstorming session with someone from a different department. It’s like setting up a giant scratchpad without putting any pressure on.

After all, there are many stories about million-dollar ideas that originated as a few notes on a bar napkin. Loose, pressure-free brainstorming in a relaxed setting is one of the best ways for your business to come up with new ideas.

 

  1. Provide a stimulating atmosphere

Everyone has read stories about  companies trying to encourage creativity by setting up lots of opportunities for employees to play around and have fun at work. This is helpful because many people have their best ideas while their minds are in relaxation mode. However, there’s more to creative culture than Nerf darts and disco balls.

Quiet environments are good for staying focused, but having ambient noise at a moderate level works best for encouraging creativity. Overhearing other people’s conversations is a major distraction that can hinder the creative process. Find ways to keep employee workspaces free of unwanted background chatter.

The colors in the environment can also play a major role in setting the stage for the creative juices to flow. People don’t respond well to typical office colors or vast areas of white and gray, beige, tan, and brown. These colors appear sterile and oppressive, and nothing puts a damper on creativity like an uninspiring office environment. White walls are hard for eyes to adjust to after looking at screens, and the constant contrast of stark white with gray cubicles, dark desks, and dark carpeting fosters more eye strain than creativity.

Instead, give employees some color. Pastel blue and green shades make for settings that are easier on the eyes, and they can create feelings of relaxation. Shades of green work well in spaces where employees need to focus on and complete tasks. Green makes people feel relaxed and happy because it’s the color of nature, and people are still wired to respond to it. Adding plants to space can help communicate a pleasant vibe that encourages creativity. Dead plants aren’t helpful, though, so hire a plant care service if you don’t have a knack for keeping plants healthy.

In spaces where you want to stimulate thinking, such as in a conference room, use a bold warm color like red or orange. This color will help wake up your employees’ brains and could lead to some lively discussions. Use red or orange anywhere that you want to create an energized atmosphere.

Room temperature plays a part, too. Employees will be able to think better and come up with new ideas when the workplace temperature is comfortable. A temperature in the low 70s is ideal. Cozy employees come up with more creative ideas. It might cost a little more to keep the temperature in the right range, but the benefits could easily offset the expense.

Adjusting the lights in workspaces also contributes to your employees’ ability to be creative. Bright light is great for work that requires focus, while lower lighting lends itself better to creative thought processes. Natural light is ideal if it’s available. Otherwise, choose lighting that best simulates the look of natural daylight.

 

  1. Ask unusual questions

Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to temporarily redirect the team's focus. I would recommend asking unusual, open-ended questions as tools to encourage creative thought. The brain will work harder to answer these questions, which can pave the way to innovative ideas.

I’m a big fan of using “questions as” tools to guide or provoke thinking. These tools do not tell people what to think, but rather how. This provocation allows the brain to go to work by mixing up a wide variety of ideas, and then new ideas will occur.

 

  1. Encourage individuality

Let your employees know that you value their thoughts. It sounds simple, but employees get used to feeling like part of the pack and can sometimes think it’s better to just keep up with their workload, blend in, and not become a squeaky wheel.

Employers should take extra steps to let employees know that individuality is appreciated. Let them know that you see them as unique, interesting people and not simply as your workers. Employees respond well to these gestures and will reward you with their insights and ideas.

 

  1. Facilitate anonymous suggestions

Many times, the intimidation factor is just too high, so employees won’t make suggestions publicly. A lot of people are afraid of getting laughed at when they contribute to a work-related discussion. When you’re trying to ask for original ideas, it can just be too risky for employees to speak their minds. They’d rather avoid a potentially embarrassing situation altogether.

Take the social aspect off the table by letting employees give you their ideas anonymously. Put suggestion boxes around the workplace, and make sure employees can use them without the whole team seeing when someone adds a note.

 

  1. Hire a diverse team

Diversity contributes to an atmosphere of creative thinking. It’s good for business to have employees from different fields, different schools, and different backgrounds. Employees with too many similarities in education and experience can often come up with ideas that start to sound repetitive after a while. To increase diversity in your workplace, start looking at resumes for the differences that might benefit you instead of choosing new staff members because they’re so similar to employees you already have.

 

  1. Take action based on employee input

Employees are more likely to offer their suggestions if they think their ideas will come to fruition. It doesn’t take long in the work world before you realize that a lot of ideas are discussed but not a lot actually happens. Eventually, employees may even stop giving you their suggestions. Why bother? Make a point of letting employees know when you’re implementing a creative new idea.

Once you’ve determined that the idea is a success, go ahead and let the staff know how this great new idea came to be. Don’t make a public announcement about whose idea it was until you have great results to show. This will foster creativity in the workplace by increasing your employees’ motivation to contribute.

 

  1. Reward out-of-the-box thinking

Let employees know that you value their creative contributions by rewarding them. This kind of positive reinforcement will encourage more of the same behavior. For this to work, you have to give them a reward they really want. They might not want their name listed with a special “thank you” in the company newsletter. Instead, they probably want a cash bonus, game tickets, restaurant gift certificates, or a special parking spot.

At the same time, not all suggestions will be winners. Don’t punish employees for coming to you with suggestions, and don’t be offended when the subtext of the conversation is that they think your way stinks. Any kind of negative reaction will result in reducing creativity rather than encouraging it.

In my experience, these 9 steps will encourage your employees to think creatively and facilitate a culture of innovation in the workplace. In parting, I’d like you to think about what you are doing to nourish a creative culture and get your employees to perform at their best and brightest?

 
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Yes to outside of the box thinking. Love these tips!!

  Tracy Daves

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