How to Encourage Creative Flow in All Employees
Improving creative flow within an organization is both energizing for employees and beneficial for innovation and overall performance. Fortunately, too, it is not an expensive for strenuous goal to reach!
To boost creativity, let us first be certain what it is. Creativity is more than originality, novelty or uniqueness. People often use these words interchangeably, however, creativity is more. While many things are new, they are creative only if they are both new and useful. The social science definition of creativity is “combining normally unrelated ideas together in new, useful ways.” Because creative ideas, products and services are considered useful, they are more valuable. Companies compete routinely by inventing products and services customers will find most valuable to them, e.g., helpful, easy to use, affordable, well-serviced. The companies with employees who best understand how to invent what customers will most value win in the market.
It is no wonder organizations seek ways to enhance creative flow.
To increase creative thinking in work teams, here are nine easy-to-implement actions to initiate.
- Make available reading material totally unrelated to work. Distribute magazine stories, articles and podcasts about topics which have nothing to do with the work people do. Material about boating, neuroscience, history, food, sports, hobbies and travel are all options. Leave such material where people can pick it up and read it during breaks. This helps employees reframe their daily thinking and stimulates ideas from which they can “borrow” to approach their normal challenges in new ways. R&D engineers may be narrowly focused on how to solve a technology issue. Opening thinking to outside ideas can create a new vantage point and breakthroughs.
- Walk away. Some of the best aha ideas come when people stop what they are focused on and take a break. This lets the mind incubate and rearrange the problem – unconsciously – while doing something else. People who go take a walk, run, have a chat with a colleague or listen to music for a break can come back to the problem later and have the thrill of “Eureka” they need.
- Try diversity. Add members to a team from entirely different functions, roles, cultures, gender and life experience than those in the group. Encourage the members to listen to the different views and take advantage of the power of alternative thinking.
- Supply new software games and tools. Neuroscience breakthroughs show we can train our brains to create new neuropathways which help us increase our thinking abilities. Software programs from companies such as Posit Science are easy to purchase and offer to employees who wish to enhance their mental agility.
- Make goals less serious and more fun. Recently, scientists who were stuck on solving a genetic code issue gave the problem to a group of social gamers. The gamers solved it in record time. By looking at the problem as a contest, they had an entirely different orientation and sense of play about “winning.” Make challenges more like contests, encouraging people to engage in new ways.
- Bring in futurists to provoke imagination. Invite actual speakers, download TED Talks or videos from well-known futurists who can create visions of things to come. This sparks imagination about possibilities, directions, consequences and options people otherwise have not considered.
- Use appreciative inquiry. This technique helps employees and managers ask questions in positive ways which encourage “what if” thinking. Rather than asking “Why do we have such poor quality results on our product line?” a manager can ask “What ideas do you have to make our quality results the best in our industry?” Learning how to elicit creative solutions is fundamental to creative flow.
- Hold out for later, better ideas. Often, teams settle on the first, obvious solution to a challenge. Instead, hold brainstorming sessions and do not make a final decision. Agree to reconvene the next day and reopen the discussion. This gives people time to incubate on the issue, which often produces a more powerful idea than during the first round.
- Celebrate and honor those who invent creative solutions. To sustain creative flow, build a culture which encourages and honors it. Acknowledge those with breakthrough ideas and reward teams who solve challenges in new, impactful ways. Include creativity as a key value for your organization and recognize those who model it.
Try adopting these with your teams and discover how it both energizes them and instills pride as they bring new ideas to even the most challenging issues. For fresh thinking, managerial training about creativity and resources to support you, call our CHROs2Go team.
Dr. Hamlin leads the CHROs2Go practice of the 2GO Advisory Group. She works with clients in all industries to facilitate their human and organizational business performance improvement. With more than 38 years of experience in strategy, change management and human performance improvement, she works with clients ranging from Fortune 500 global enterprises to start-up companies spanning more than 40 countries.
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