Which one would you pick: A job that inspires you to dream up some new idea every single day then work and build on them? Or one that needs you to do the same mindless, repetitive task day in and day out?
That’s a no brainer. The first one, of course.
The fact is, in today’s economy, a lot of us do work in professions that need us to be creative and think out of the box regularly. However, boredom, stress and a million other excuses creep into our everyday lives making even an interesting job dry as sawdust. As an employee, you have the option of quitting an uninspiring job and moving on to the next one.
But what do you do as an employer faced with talented employees who are stuck in a creative rut? Here are some thoughts for a more creative workplace.
1. Open, Fearless Communication
One of the biggest hurdles to an inspired, creative workplace is fear. Fear of one’s ideas being ridiculed, fear of being judged as not good enough, even fear of retribution. To build a creative workplace that allows your employees to put on their thinking caps and go freewheeling with their ideas, unshackle them from the constant fear of consequences.
Encourage open communication by setting an example yourself. Speak with individual team members to get to know them and their strengths. Engage your team in discussions about important matters and ask for their inputs while making key decisions.
This sense of inclusiveness and being needed will automatically help employees shed their inhibitions and open up about their more creative ideas and thoughts.
Tony Hsieh, the fabled CEO of Zappos encourages open communication and idea generation by always being available to listen to his employees. Hsieh sends personalized email to individual employees making them feel important and valued.
The result? An eCommerce phenomenon called Zappos.
2. Inspiring Office Spaces
It’s no secret that our surroundings have a direct bearing on our moods and therefore our thought processes. Inject a little personality into your office with design that is bright and cheerful. After all, creativity stems from being inspired, not bored to death.
Create little nooks and meeting areas where teams can meet up and brainstorm new ideas. Bring down the walls and invest in an open concept workplace that lets every employee see everyone else face to face.
Simple things like color and lighting have a big impact on the creative output of your teams. Ravi Mehta and Juliet Zhu from the University of British Columbia have shown that the color blue helps in creative tasks and idea generation, while red aids tasks that require attention to detail.
A pair of researchers from Germany showed that creative thinking gets a definite boost with low lighting at workplaces while bright lights help in analytical tasks.
3. The Chill Zone
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. This old adage is true even in the context of workplace productivity and creativity.
The most innovative companies in the world recognize their employees’ need to unwind and refresh themselves. This explains the millions of dollars they often spend on building recreational facilities where employees can take a break from work and recharge their creative batteries.
A mind-blowing office design like those belonging to, say, Google or Facebook is often out of reach for the average company, but everyone can afford to invest in the basic forms of employee recreation. Something as basic as a PlayStation, a ping-pong table, magazines or even a small room for meditation are not a tall order for most companies, but go a long way in helping employees leave their stress behind to attack work with fresh minds.
4. Lean Teams
In an interesting interview with FastCompany, Dan Satterthwaite from DreamWorks Animation shares the secrets of DreamWorks’ success. While the company employs over 1,600 people, no team ever exceeds seven members in size.
Satterthwaite explains the company discovered pretty early on that intimate groups are best to extract the best creative work from their employees. The level of trust that members of a small group have in each other vanishes in large impersonal teams. This mutual trust and comfort levels help them open up and freewheel their thoughts leading to real creative breakthroughs.
No wonder DreamWorks has racked up three Oscars, one Golden Globe Award and over a dozen nominations for both since its inception.
Moral of the story? Keep your teams small and lean. Not only will they be easier to manage, you’ll probably get your most creative output from these small teams.
5. Pets at the Workplace
Pets have been proven to be stress-busters and mood enhancers by hundreds of different studies. The numerous benefits that pets offer have led nearly 20 percent of companies in the U.S. to allowing their employees to bring pets to the workplace.
Pets help employees bond better with each other, create a more relaxed atmosphere at the workplace where creativity can flourish.
In fact, research by the University of Illinois shows that taking a break from your work every now and then — like playing with the office pet or taking it for a walk — is actually beneficial to coming up with creative new ideas.
Before you get your furry friends to the workplace, make sure everyone at your workplace is on board with the plan. While it’s a good idea to stock up on doggy treats, also have a guide at hand (PDF) for those employees who don’t have pets on how to treat their four-legged colleagues.
Your Turn: Reward Creative Thought
Finally, but most importantly, if you expect your employees to go beyond the obvious answers and come up with creative solutions to everyday problems, you need to demonstrate that you appreciate their efforts.
Recognize creativity by showcasing it prominently in your workplace. Offer rewards that your team will appreciate — a fancy dinner, extra paid time off, a paid weekend holiday — it doesn’t always have to be cash.
All the other steps are enablers of creative thought. This final one is recognition for creative thinking. While enabling employees is essential, without recognition even the most creative employees will soon lose steam and do just the bare essentials.
Why fall into that trap when it’s so simple to give your company a creative shot in the arm?
Workplace Photo via Shutterstock
More in: Business Motivation
It helps if the workplace is minimalist and clean with a splash of color. Of course, the vibe of the people also plays a role. Sure, some conflicts cannot be prevented but it can help or hinder creativity.
Great read, thanks! I often find that when someone raises an idea which might come across as ‘far fetched’, rather than be dismissive, one follow-up reply could be ‘let’s explore what has to be true for this idea to work’. This way, you get in the mindset of both exploring new and creative ideas, but also identifying the key market, technological, business and financial constraints that will have to be worked through for each idea in a productive way.