Creativity and innovation in the workplace are key to the success of any business. They’re also key to employee happiness and motivation. After all, who doesn’t love feeling creative?
The more employees feel like they can be creative, the more likely they are to keep being creative. Ideas only grow when they’re allowed to.
The more an organization encourages groupthink, the less employees will bother suggesting new things. Over time, their creative muscles will deteriorate and they’ll find it much harder to be creative in any context.
To prevent that from happening, here are some tips to encourage creativity and innovation in the workplace.
Consider every idea
When you have an idea but don’t speak it or write it down, it acts like a plug, preventing other ideas from coming through.
Dismissing it mentally isn’t always enough because your brain will still be thinking about it (consciously or subconsciously) and trying to find a way to make it work.
It may not be a ground-breaking idea, but it may lead to something that is. You don’t know unless you try.
Encouraging employees to adopt this mindset is a great way to foster creativity and innovation in the workplace.
People dismissed many big technological advances, from computer mice to smartphones and tablets, as too “out there” or something nobody would use. And look at them now!
Sometimes those “out there” ideas are just what you need to take things to the next level. If you dismiss them before an idea has had a chance to mature or even be vocalized, you’ll never know.
Break up the routine
When you do the same thing day in and day out, you start to run on autopilot. It’s therefore important that you find ways to break up employees’ routines and make things more interesting for them. This jolts the brain into action and can help with everything from mood to productivity to engagement. It’s also a great way to encourage creativity and innovation in the workplace
Ways you could do this include: changing where the team catch-up meeting is held (even if that’s on Zoom instead of Teams, the different software still makes the brain work harder initially); combining office-based and remote working; or even encouraging remote employees to work from a café once per week. Whatever will give them a change of scenery, and therefore a change of headspace.
Go for a walking meeting
Walking meetings are great for creativity and innovation in the workplace because exercise helps our brains solve problems.
I’ve had some of my best ideas during workouts when I wasn’t even trying to solve the problem in question. It ticked away in the back of my mind anyway, and the solution appeared without me stressing myself out over it.
We’re all so connected now that there’s no reason walking meetings can’t be done over the phone or even over video. You could try on the treadmill if you really wanted to, just maybe not in the gym where you’ll disturb your fellow exercisers.
If you wanted to, you could take things a step further. Don’t just encourage walking meetings, encourage exercise. The fun kind, not the high school-flashbacks kind.
There’s a type of exercise out there for everyone, whether that’s chair yoga, boxing, rock climbing, or something else. Giving employees access to a variety of exercises, and explaining the physical and mental health benefits, will make it more inclusive and encourage employees to try different things.
For instance, did you know that one aerobic exercise session can boost our focus for several hours after?
You could even start meetings with a simple stretch to help with tense back and shoulder muscles that often come from sitting at a desk all day. It can be surprising how amazing that feels.
Leave comfort zones behind
Comfort zones, if we stay in them too long, become prisons. They make life boring, diminish our confidence, and make it harder to innovate.
Confidence only grows when we challenge ourselves to do something new or different. That’s also where true creativity and innovation lie.
Maybe it’s time for someone who’s camera shy to try a live stream, or for a quiet employee to lead a meeting.
If that’s too much of a leap, start with training programs that can teach employees the skills they need to tackle these challenges head on, and continue to grow those skills when they go out and perform them in the real world.
Give employees thinking time
Some people don’t think well on the spot. If you put a new idea in front of an employee and ask them “What do you think?” their mind may well be filled with tumbleweeds.
I’ve been there and it’s neither fun nor comfortable, and you come out not feeling very good about yourself.
Then, an hour later, you have a great idea. But decisions have already been made and everyone has moved on.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
Sending out agendas and big ideas you want feedback on prior to a meeting can give employees time to weigh up the features of the idea and ruminate on them.
It doesn’t have to be days or weeks in advance. Sometimes a few hours are enough.
But putting employees on the spot and asking for feedback isn’t always helpful, especially in a large group setting.
If this regularly happens for employees who need thinking time, it will make them more self-conscious and even less likely to speak up.
To build creativity and innovation in the workplace, you need novelty. Our brains love it. I don’t mean novelty as in a pen with an octopus on the top, or a cute stuffed animal. I’m talking about new and different things.
Breaking up our day-to-day lives—whether that’s taking a different route when you go for a walk, or trying a new food—makes our brains work harder.
The more often we challenge our brains, the stronger and more capable they get.
We can then come up with better ideas, think more clearly, and find solutions faster.
If you’re interested in driving more creativity and innovation in the workplace, Workrowd can help. By providing employees a dedicated digital gathering space and supporting efforts like hackathons, intrapreneurship groups, and more, our platform makes it easy to ensure you never lose your competitive edge. Visit our site to learn more or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.