Creativity is perhaps the single most significant factor in whether a company will excel. Creativity has an impact on everything, including:
No group of people understands creativity better than CEOs. A survey asked CEOs to answer the question, “what is the skill you most value in people?”. They said creativity and the ability to solve problems. Interestingly, most employees report that they feel under more pressure to be productive than creative. So why the gap? If CEOs value creativity above all else, then why are employees not feeling pressure to be creative? The answer is simple: CEOs struggle to cultivate creative workplace environments.
Today we’re going to be looking at five things you can do to boost your workplace creativity and inspire your employees to do great work.
You’ve probably heard that creative spaces lead to creative work. This is why we see an increase in hot-desking, open-plan setups, brainstorming areas, and so on. Some companies even have ‘creative’ rooms where employees can go to hash out ideas in an environment perfectly designed to get their creative juices flowing. Sometimes these spaces a bright and vibrant, with lots of objects that fire your neurons into action. Other times these spaces are more like a blank slate – an area free from distraction where your brain can think freely.
Designing an office for creativity involves more than flashy wallpaper and an open-plan approach. First, you have to get the basics right:
Simple. Comfortable furniture improves productivity for several reasons:
Productivity is intrinsically linked to creativity. The more you do, the more you’re inspired to do more. You not only get a boost in motivation, but you become fully invested in your role and how it contributes to the company’s goal. Having employees who feel connected, motivated, and inspired should be a goal for any forward-thinking company.
Break areas need to be areas where employees can actually take a break. In other words, places they can relax without thinking about work. Most workplaces have break areas, but not all employees feel comfortable using them. This can be for several reasons. If the break area is utilitarian, employees might think that you have included the room out of necessity but that you don’t encourage them to use it. By investing in a well-designed break area, you communicate that you want your employees to take breaks.
However, creative spaces can only get you so far. You’ll need the five elements below to cultivate a truly creative environment.
Most small start-ups are brimming with creativity, and yet, they’re often working from less than ideal workspaces. Entrepreneurs might have a small team of one or two people working from a garage, but ideas are still flowing. So what gives? Does this mean that well-designed pro-creative workspaces are a scam? No, but it means “the team” is just as important as the environment.
Coming up with creative ideas that the group will accept requires trust. Here are what we consider to be the essential qualities of creative teams:
Some creativity experts argue that the rigid structure of traditional org charts gets in the way of creative expression. The theory goes like this: it’s difficult to think outside of the box when you’re very confined to the box. Junior employees might have great ideas, but you’ll never hear those ideas if they lack the confidence to say them.
The best way to combat this problem is to actively encourage all members of the team to freely share their opinion while remaining respectful. You can start by having brainstorming sessions where all members are required to give their input. Remember, the right questions strengthen great ideas.
Why are start-ups full of creativity when large companies often aren’t? A leading theory is that it comes down to survival. As an entrepreneur, creativity is essential to your survival. If you can’t develop exciting new ideas and put them into action, you’ll quickly get left behind and fail. It’s sometimes said that being an entrepreneur is like falling from a plane and trying to design the parachute on the way down. In other words, the stakes couldn’t be any higher!
With larger, more established companies, that fear of failure isn’t as intense. There’s a quiet confidence that comes with being a well-established business. You get lulled into a false sense of security where you think, “well, we’ve always been okay, so we’ll be okay this time”. The more routine aspects of the job – the structure and the rules – start to take precedence over being creative.
We’re not saying you need to strike fear into your employees – that is unethical and unlikely to produce the results you want. Additionally, it’s not just the fear of failure that drives creativity; it goes much deeper than that. For example, several studies have shown that we are actually less creative when the stakes are higher. This is usually demonstrated in experiments where a group of people are tasked with building some kind of structure from unusual materials (like chopsticks and tape). When there is a monetary prize for the winning group that produces the highest structure, people actually get less creative than where there is no prize. Why? Because fear of loss causes us to narrow our focus. Our brain becomes hyper-focused on the task in front of us and loses the ability to think widely (think outside the box).
Creativity is randomness, but it’s not anarchy. If you want to inspire a more creative atmosphere where creativity is a survival mechanism, you need to remove stakes and bolster random-thinking. How do you do this? By encouraging employees to share ideas without fear that their ideas will be looked down upon. And you have to make creativity fun. It has to become an essential part of working at your company. This is where the survival element comes in. Employees should believe that being creative is a highly valued skill at your workplace and that their ability to come up with new ideas is what determines their success. The quality of the ideas matters less than the ability to access them because when you come up with 100 new ideas, a few of them are likely to be excellent. But if you only come up with one or two ideas because you’re worried about looking stupid in front of your peers, the likelihood of these ideas also being great is small.
We can’t be creative 100% of the time. Sometimes we can unlock our creativity by giving our brain some time off to unwind and unfocus. People unwind in different ways, so it’s a good idea to allow a range of options for employees who need a short break to reset and refocus. For example, some people find that exercise helps them clear their mind. Even if you can’t put a fully-fledged gym in your workplace, you can encourage employees to go for a walk.
Another great idea is having a “quiet” place. Some offices have a prayer or reflection room, and others just have a quiet room. Ideally, this room should be away from the noisy hub of the office and be decorated in a minimal and calming way. It’s also important to set expectations for this room. Make sure employees understand that it’s not a place to slip into to take a phone call or watch videos on their break. Put simply, library rules apply.
As we established above, trust is an essential ingredient of creativity. But it’s worth remembering that you can’t have trust without a common purpose. We trust people more when we believe they are on our side. We’re also more likely to share our ideas when we feel confident that other people will see the value in them.
Anyone who has worked at a large corporate company can probably think back to a time that a senior-ranking employee came up with an idea that just didn’t resonate with the broader employee base. This might have been something internal, like a theme for the annual party, or something more external, like an idea for a new product range. Either way, it’s something that makes you think, “Wow, this guy is a little out of touch”. When this happens, it likely means the senior-ranking employee has made one critical mistake:
They’ve over-valued their employees’ trust in them and their ideas and lost focus of the common goal.
Trust is fluid, and it is conditional; if the conditions change, the trust changes.
Here are some tips for cultivating an environment of shared purpose:
Distractions and frustration are major blockers to creativity. We can’t think freely when we’re focusing on how that app won’t work properly, why we have to switch between many different systems, and so on. Having the right software and tech setup is crucial to allowing your brain to focus on the important things.
The same goes for distractions. Open-plan offices have become very popular in the last few decades because it’s widely believed they boost creativity. The idea is simple: more people, fewer barriers, leads to a free exchange of ideas. In many ways, this is true. In the past, when everyone had cubicles and offices, it was much harder to share your ideas. However, there are downsides to an open-plan environment. Sometimes having so many people on one floor without any barriers creates a high level of ambient noise. And sometimes, less than ambient noise (a shrieking printer!). Some research suggests that open-plan offices work much better for extroverts than introverts, which makes sense. Extroverts are energized by other people, while introverts can become drained in the same environment. What we’re trying to say is there is no one-size-fits-all rule here, and you might need to find a compromise that works for your company.
We’re extremely excited to announce that we have changed our company name to CommBox. It’s still the same company with the same awesome people! just a new name, a fresh look, and a brighter future.Read full story