The last few years has demonstrated a steady rise in the need and demand for creativity and innovation in the business sector. Foreign competition has created a new business reality where rapid change and surpassing client expectations are the norm. Global markets, once the exception, are now the rule for most every market. Economic, technological and political changes are occurring with such speed that hat is considered state-of-the-art today, is already obsolete tomorrow.
Staying competitive in this new business environment means that organizations must create strategies for nurturing and facilitating continuous creativity and innovation in the employees they have. Without the development of these skills, foreign competition will continue to surpass local enterprise, taking with it a large percentage of the available market share.
The results is a realization that the art f imitation is no longer a viable means of achieving or gaining global competitiveness. Organizations are now faced with the challenge of functioning creatively, not just occasionally, but all the time! The difference between success and failure in this new marketplace is the ability to identify hidden opportunities and subsequently, to develop innovative strategies for bringing them to fruition. The question is, how can management achieve this lofty goal?
Below is a list of 33 simple strategies and concepts for increasing personal and organizational creativity. These are real ideas that have been implemented for stimulating: human resource development, organizational structure, and physical environment and design.
Just remember, "... creativity is not a spectator sport". you have to try the ideas out in order to get results. Good luck and happy creativity!
Human Resource Development
1. Develop a "psychological" climate where trust is guaranteed. Let employees know that is is alright not to have all the answers and that it's acceptable to ask others for input.
2. Develop an organizational culture that encourages humor, allowing people to laugh at themselves rather than their jobs.
3. Remove barriers that stifle creativity from occurring in the first place. Fear, rejection, and intimidation serve no constructive role in high performing organizations.
4. Teach people how to visualize their ideas so that they can play them out in their minds before actually trying to implement them live.
5. Let employees take ownership of problem situations as they emerge. Give them the freedom to solve their own problems in the ways they see fit. Encourage them to try new ways of solving situations and then reward them for it.
6. Create voluntary "Idea Teams" where groups of employees challenge each other to see who can come up with the most creative and monetarily successful solution to organizational or market problems.
7. Encourage employees to carry pads and pens so that when ideas hit, they can be jotted down for reference at a later time. Go even further and provide idea pads for all employees and have them submit their notes if they desire.
8. Create deliberate moments of chaos to jolt your employees into new ways of thinking about their work, their jobs and their ideas.
9. Let employees express their individuality through ideas, dress, work spaces or whatever it is that lets their unique attributes show. Don't embarrass employees because of their uniqueness. Recognize that everyone is different and it is those differences that can spark new ideas to emerge.
10. Encourage employees to see and understand things in different ways. Let employees run with their ideas, see where it takes them. Ask "what if?" questions to stretch their minds. For example "what if our customers couldn't read?". Now don't analyze just think about it for a moment as thought it were real.
11. Change perceptions by changing viewpoints.If things are right side up, turn them over, turn them inside out, look at the situation from another perspective, break it, rotate it, re-assemble it, exaggerate certain aspects of it, make it unfamiliar, use any and all the different approaches you can when confronted with problems.
12. Allow employees space and time for practicing creativity and creative thinking so that people can grow into their skill level. Bring in qualified facilitators trained in teaching how to cultivate and encourage creativity. Provide creativity workshops, coaching and training at ALL levels within the organization.
13. Recognize and encourage different types of creative activity and acknowledge that creativity can be demonstrated as: a new way to approach a problem; sometimes it's a better product, or an improvement to a service, sometimes it's an insight into how to make the organization more effective, or how to cut costs. Creativity shows up every day in a multitude of ways. Make sure you not only capture it but reinforce it both explicitly and publicly.
14. Help everyone to find satisfaction and fun in their jobs no matter what position they currently fill. Try increasing the level of passion in what you and others do. Remember employees only reflect the attitudes and behaviors of those at the top.
How can we make changes here that will increase the probability of creative output. Here are twelve great ideas that can be implemented easily through changes in organizational structure.
1. Encourage a management style that seeks to find more than just one answer to problems. If the culture demands creativity, employees will rise to the occasion.
2. Set examples for and by management by maintaining an open, accessible, and receptive attitude toward new ideas and suggestions. Let everyone know what the company stands for and is trying to achieve. When ideas are suggested, try them out. Put them into action. Expect positive results! Avoid unnecessary evaluation at the early stages of idea generation. Be encouraging, complimentary and open to different ideas or suggestions. Try not to reject ideas that do not fit in with your perspective or philosophy.
3. Increase delegation and share influence throughout the organization. Make allowances for breaking organizational rules; lessen the burden of bureaucratic restrictions. Break free from the traditional boundaries of organizational structure. Do not over-direct, over-burden, over-report, or over-observe. Treat people with the respect they deserve and you will be surprised by the outcomes!
4. Keep others informed of creative achievements that are accomplished throughout the organization. encourage and maintain support networks for creativity. Have a creativity network connected to everyone in the organization. This will support the process of quickly sharing ideas and suggestions throughout the whole organizational structure.
5. Allow for periods of "down-time" where you and your employees have the opportunity to think, clear the mind, process, daydream, and create visions of what you want to see happen at work.
6. Promote the organization through creative leadership. Set examples by leading the creativity campaign yourself. Enhancing creativity starts with conscientious efforts from the top. Set examples by risking, failing, trying out new ideas, and breaking rules that no longer have value to the organization.
7. Start a product/service innovation center that is voluntarily operated and directed by the interests and concerns of the employees.
8. By open to new ways of thinking, seeing, smelling, and experiencing the organization. Make an effort to get involved with things outside of your field or specialty. Doing so will trigger creative ideas that can be related back to the job you do perform.
9. Take a proactive approach to doing your job. Don't wait for problems to occur, try improving on the system that is functioning just fine. force yourself to try new and different approaches to problems that emerge.
10. Budget for creativity and innovation. ensure that financial support is made available to support ideas, helping hem to grow to full potential.
11. Avoid communication breakdowns between managers, co-workers and executives as this will stop new ideas from developing. Without the sharing of ideas and concepts, opportunities for new business ventures slow down, eventually ceasing to exist.
12. Provide as much physical privacy as possible for employees. this is very different from isolating individuals. Privacy refers to allowing employees the freedom to be by themselves to think or plan or just to break free from the daily grind of work.
Physical Environment + Design
To round out a strategy for true organizational creativity it is important to also include enhancements to the Physical Environment + Design of the organization. Listed below are seven key directives for increasing creative output by changing the space in which people work.
1. Create work environments that allow people to relax and think, to give them freedom to gather and exchange ideas freely without imposing a rigid structure on them.
2. Avoid barren or institutionalized office spaces. Make efforts to design varied and rich surroundings hat are more conducive to creative thought. Make your employees feel appreciated and respected and they will perform better and more creatively.
3. Allocate physical "recuperation spaces" for getting away from the work environment for short period breaks. This allows time for people to clear their minds and rejuvenate.
4. Develop a "Creativity Strategies" board where people can put up their favorite or most effective creative thinking strategy.
5. Add color and artwork to the environment so that it stimulates and challenges those who work there. Boring and uninteresting art or environments will only yield boring and uninteresting employees. Take a risk and let employees contribute to the physical design of their own work spaces. this breads accountability and makes for a better work setting.
6. Provide physical environments where people can be more comfortable, confident and relaxed. shed the "old and outdated" rules around what to wear or how to act. Listen for new ways of being and doing and living in your work spaces.
7. Begin thinking about how to change your current setting into a Creativity Enhancing Environment (CES). The expertise of behaviour experts and designers can provide valuable insights and guidelines for developing not only sound but productive CES's that will stimulate, challenge, and invigorate your organization and employees.
Stimulating creativity and creative thinking in organizations is not difficult or costly but it does take time and requires a plan, patience and persistence.
systematic planning of the physical, mental and organizational structures that nurture creativity and innovation yields returns that will sustain long--term growth and development. It is a way of developing social, psychological and environmental spaces where people can grow, develop and stretch themselves to reach beyond their current potentials.
It is a way of choosing and committing to seeing everyday things in new ways. It is about creating opportunities for everyone to become their best and more importantly, to find many different ways of contributing to the goals and mission of the organization.
So there you have it, 33 easily digestible strategies for kick-starting organizational creativity. Now what are you waiting for... get to it and try some out!