Creativity can be a scary thing for many workplaces because it pits tried-and-true methods against something new. But creativity is needed to solve the increasingly complex problems facing businesses.
There are three main reasons people get creative:
- a need for something new
- a need to communicate
- a need to solve a problem.
Creativity can produce small but noticeable changes, and sometimes it can lead to fundamentally disruptive and profound changes. Often people focus on trying to redesign the entire system and overlook the inspiration in the small innovations.
Employers need to encourage creativity to ensure stronger problem solving skills and better capacity to respond to continuous change. Creative organizations are better able to meet their strategic objectives, and creative teams and individuals are more profitable and efficient.
Many industries are being disrupted by new technology and automation. The concept of driverless cars has the potential to revolutionize the transport industry and make thousands, potentially millions, of people redundant. Any process-related job is at risk of being made obsolete by technology. Up to 47 percent of the entire American workforce's jobs are at risk. This includes professions in the health field that were previously considered safe from outsourcing and provided middle-class incomes. At the moment, what protects workers and their professions from being automated is the ability to be creative, be innovative, and operate outside of pre-established parameters.
Here's what employers can do to support creativity in the workplace:
Workplace culture: Employees need to know there is support for individual, team, and corporate learning. What worked well for 30 years isn't necessarily working well today or will work well tomorrow. The entire organization needs to support learning. And for learning to happen, that means admitting failure, identifying lessons learned, and most important, actually applying lessons learned.
Whole person: Employees need to be able to bring their entire selves to the workplace. Employers need to realize that employees are more than their job descriptions. They bring a wealth of talent and experiences from other resources. They can't bring their whole selves if workplace cultures frown on such behaviors. Employees are people not just skill sets.
Parameters: When framing a situation or a problem, start with the end goal and then see how employees reach it. Some will think in a predictable manner; others will come up with truly innovative solutions. Create safe spaces for conversations. Design evaluation criteria to determine the fit or appropriateness of each idea. Budget both time and money for testing and prototyping.
Patience: Coming up with bold new solutions doesn't happen in five minutes. People need time to explore, experiment, process, reject, and reapply. Always putting tight deadlines on goals impairs people's ability to think creatively.
Experts aren't always creative: Expand conversations to include people with knowledge of a subject but who aren't necessarily experts. They may be able to provide an entirely different take.
Supporting creativity in the workplace is as much about a culture of openness and innovation as it is having the right processes and systems in place to support and implement the ideas brought forward.