Workplace Culture: Inspiring Employee Creativity

We operate in a highly competitive, global environment, whereby creativity is crucial to maintain and develop competitive advantages. Creativity keeps your business forward looking with innovation and new ideas, not only for new products or services, but also for streamlining processes, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Creativity matters, but how do you enable it? There’s a notion that creativity requires a “creative personality”, but decades of research has shown that there is no such trait. Anybody can be creative given the right opportunities and context. 

Keys to a Lock

The secret to unlocking creativity is not to look for more creative people, but to unlock more creativity from the people already working for and with you. A recent Global Innovation Survey by McKinsey highlights that innovation is critical to growth but while 84% of executives agree on its importance, only 6% are satisfied with their organization’s innovation performance. 

If you want your employees to excel at problem-solving and be creative, it’s essential that you create an environment that encourages innovation and creativity. Prioritizing the value of challenging the status quo allows for the formulation of unique solutions that could help cut costs, improve client retention or create new streams of revenue. 

Google, recognized as one of the most innovative companies in the world, encourages its employees to dedicate 20% of their work time to Google-related projects that show no immediate promise but might reveal big opportunities down the road. Introduced in 2004, Google’s 20 Percent Project led to the invention of AdSense, Gmail and Google Talk, just to name a few. 

Changing Your Mindset

Creativity is often likened to an epiphany where there’s an initial spark followed by a straightforward period of execution, but that’s not true in the least. If you or your company’s leadership thinks along the same lines, it’d be important to start a discussion to kick off any of your creative endeavors. 

Myth #1: Creativity is limited to certain “types” of people. 

Many think creativity requires deep expertise or that you have to hire the “right” people. This filters out all the people whose fresh perspectives are needed and limits the scope of results. Break the barriers of roles, credentials, and qualifications by simply asking, “What would you like to change for the better?”

Myth #2: Process kills creativity.

Many think of the process as limiting creativity. This is only true if your process is broken. A good process can serve as guardrails to clarify goals (timeline, resources available, and desired outcomes) yet leave the “how” open. The capacity to direct one’s own work enables teams to share responsibility, self-organize, generate ideas, and collaborate.

Myth #3: Money funds creativity. 

Money, while necessary, motivates neither the best people, nor the best in people. More than a simple desire, finding and fulfilling a purpose is a fundamental human need. 

Leaders need to abandon these beliefs, and break down the barriers to creativity by instead believing in the core capacity of their people. Creativity takes time and is a process of its own. It’s a nonlinear path that can have wrong turns and dead ends, but it’s something for everyone regardless of their position.