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How to nurture more creative employees

Here are some activities designed to create sparks and promote blue sky thinking

Creativity is being embraced in workplaces around the world, with many top companies cultivating this desirable quality from within. Today, creativity is seen as a spur towards business growth and prosperity.

Promoting creativity includes thinking ‘outside the box’ and exploring new ways for employees to become more innovative. Here are some activities designed to create sparks and promote blue sky thinking.

Create groups

Get people to mingle in a social environ­ment. For example, encourage brainstorming over beer and pizza. Such social settings are a great way to encourage collaborative ideas.

Go outside regularly

Arrange external activities such as go-carting, miniature golf or happy hour. This can inspire creativity and build relationships among staff. By leaving their comfort zones, employees look at new possibilities afresh.

Encourage experimentation

Ban smartphones and computers for a few hours. Instead, hand out notebooks and get staff to write and sketch their thoughts – this will stimulate different approaches. Pages can be subsequently posted on a brainstorming wall.

Encourage risk

Even if an idea fails, it is an important part of growing a business. Encourage your staff to experiment without fear of censure.

Enable new ideas

Give individuals the space to reflect privately on their work, and solicit ideas by placing suggestion boxes throughout the workplace. Individuals in the team can spark off each other.

Use innovation techniques

Lay on training sessions in mind-mapping, brainstorming and lateral thinking.

Cross-fertilise

Job swaps and shadowing within the organisation can bring a new perspective. Also, encourage staff to examine how other businesses operate.

Be supportive

Respond to all ideas with enthusiasm. Never make those offering ideas feel foolish and welcome all concepts, even outlandish ones.

Reward creativity

Recognise creativity in the workplace, perhaps by employing an awards scheme.

Move towards chaos

A system is at its most creative when on the cusp of chaos since all ideas, however zany, are up for grabs.

Be curious

Discover your inner learner and bring a beginner’s mindset to problems. Ask questions such as ‘What might happen if we examine the other side?’ or ‘How might we disprove our theories?’ and then listen for answers.

Give direction

Creativity requires a hands-off approach. However, a total lack of direction kills ideas For fruitful results, provide a goal and parameters. Provide the finish and let your team design the route.

Don’ts

  • Don’t kill your team’s drive and willingness to contribute. Although risk is involved, testing their wings is important.
  • Don’t inhibit the creative process by focusing too soon on implementation and tactical solutions. This stifles a team’s creative juices.
  • If someone provides an idea, don’t automatically say ‘but’ (we can’t or it’s too expensive). This stops ideas from developing. Instead, simply say ‘and’ in affirmation. Try saying ‘yes’ too.
  • Don’t micromanage – teams become stifled and lose the desire to create. Instead, make it easy for your team to work at a high level.
  • Don’t lead discussions. Use an external facilitator to encourage staff, and stay quiet so as not to stifle your team.

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