When we think of creativity, we don’t always consider all the settings it could be used in and tend to focus on stereotypical settings where being creative is essential for success. When working for a large company or business organization, most people don’t think they are creative or even need to be creative because their job description didn’t mention it. Most people think they aren’t creative because they didn’t do well in art class or say they aren’t able to think of new ideas that are inventive, therefore the creative part of their brain shuts down and doesn’t get used. In the workplace, creativity doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to artistic or innovative ideas, and whether you think you are being creative or not, you can help your company become more creative simply with an open mind, and a little curiosity.
What is Creativity?
Creativity is defined as how we can think about the world in new ways, find hidden patterns, and link together ideas that might not be obviously connected. There have been so many important inventions and ideas that started out from just being curious.
There have been many successful businesses over the last few decades that have implemented creative components to how their employees do their work, and it has benefitted them immensely. For example, the Post-it® note was accidentally invented because the employee at 3M who created it was trying to invent something else but ended up coming up with the adhesive we all use in the office that doesn’t leave residue on the surface it is applied to. Now, 3M encourages employees to dedicate fifteen percent of their time working on their own projects to foster creativity and innovation.
Another example is Google. As one of the largest and most pristine technology companies in the world, Google inspires creativity amongst its employees and encourages personal ideas and innovations as well, which has been shown to help with company success. According to INC.com, Google employees are encouraged to dedicate twenty percent of their work time to personal projects. This has been a large factor in the company’s success because people are working on things they care about, causing them to value their work more. Twitter, Google Maps, and Groupon are some results of employee’s personal projects. Lots of other companies are following in 3M and Google’s example, leaving them with happier employees, creative ideas, and more success.
How can I improve creativity at work?
If you are thinking that these companies were only able to produce these creative outcomes because they had the resources to do so, that’s not true. Any individual at any company no matter the field can produce similar outcomes and be successful with creativity incorporated into their work life. If you are thinking of new ways to inspire creativity at work or want to get your employees to think differently, here are some team-building activities and exercises you can implement at work to help get your employees or co-workers’ brains turning:
- Shark Tank: Based on the TV show, break up into teams and come up with an invention containing all the details. Brand name, slogan, marketing pitch, business plan, budget, financials and more. Pitch the idea to the “sharks” who will determine if they would be willing to invest. Encourage the sharks to ask questions, which will enhance team creativity. This exercise could lead to potential ideas that could result in something phenomenal, leaving your employees to be confident in their abilities.
- Draw Toast: Everyone gets a piece of paper and without writing words, must draw all the steps included in making toast. This exercise enhances creativity because there are no wrong answers, no set number of steps, and encourages people to think creatively without writing. People can have different things on their paper, and when you share with the group, others might realize that there are an infinite number of ways to make toast, thus, showing that there are millions of ways and solutions to fix different problems. This activity can help get the wheels turning to come up with new ideas that might help the business become more creative, or it can inspire employees to think differently about common issues or problems.
- Campfire Stories: Come up with a list of words that relate to a common theme such as the first day of work, traveling, or scary experiences, and have everyone tell a story that connects to the theme. Everyone else should take notes on the storyteller and write down the words that remind them of similar experiences. Storytelling is such an underrated concept but it’s so important in business. If you are good at telling stories, you can be good at selling things and convincing people to listen to you. Mastering the art of storytelling is essential if you work in business, and this activity is a great way to inspire creativity in others.
Can creativity be learned?
Just like riding a bike or swimming, being creative is something you can learn with practice. While some people are gifted at creativity and artistry, it’s also a skill that can be worked on over time in order to get better and improve upon. Oftentimes at a young age, children may believe that being artistic is the only form of creativity, but research states that creativity doesn’t always have to do with art, but rather with thinking critically, asking questions, coming up with and being mindful of all possible solutions. Regardless, creativity is an essential component to a prosperous business and can even be required among top companies in a job description, even if the job doesn’t have to do with art. We still use the artistic side of our brains to think creatively and to practice being creative. Just like any other skill, practice, trial and error, and keeping an open mind are all important ways to improve your creativity in the workplace and get better at it and become more confident day by day.
How can I inspire creative thinking at work?
Ways to enhance your creativity at work can include keeping an open mind, asking questions, experimenting with things, thinking about things differently, and learning from others. Creativity is so important in business, especially today when most business is done online where there is less in-person interaction. Learning how to use your office’s creativity to your advantage is key and can benefit you in the long run. Team building activities and bonding exercises are great ways to learn everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, which can help bring initiative and drive into the office where new ideas can develop and blossom.
Changing the environment you work in can spark creativity as well. Google has implemented bright colors, desk treadmills, rooms with abstract art and more for its employees to trigger creativity and new ideas. Traditional conference rooms look different, there are no cubicles, and the break room is stocked with healthy options to maximize energy and productivity. Google has created a community feel to its work environment, where employees are free to think and explore new possibilities in the most enjoyable type of office possible.
Creativity as well as the mistakes we make along the way should be rewarded and can be best utilized in an environment where both mistakes and innovation are valued and encouraged. The creativity among your colleagues and employees will improve if they are incentivized to implement creativity into their work and keep an open mind with new ideas. Making mistakes is part of the process as well, and in a world where mistakes are seen as negative, viewing them as positive in the workplace can encourage people to express all their ideas and not shy away from them. Rewards will also help them become more invested in their work, as their ideas, creativity and even mistakes are valued and appreciated by their managers. Like Google, giving employees time to develop and bring their ideas to life can lead to extraordinary things. Even honoring their ideas outside the company’s goals can push them to think differently, which might even lead to a new venture that can change the world or make life easier.
By implementing these exercises and many other team building activities, employees will feel more comfortable sharing ideas that they are not the most confident in. Even ideas that don’t make sense at first can turn into possibilities to solve a problem, you just might not realize right away. If you don’t feel comfortable enough around your co-workers to share potential ideas, then creativity will dwindle, and change will happen a lot slower. Work on fostering a culture that encourages and rewards creativity and new ideas so everyone can feel valued and heard.
How important is creativity in business?
Being creative, especially if you are trying to sell a product or service, is a crucial aspect of business and how you market said product or service. Creativity and an open mind encourage innovation, new ideas, fresh thinking, and positive outcomes and forces us to look at the world differently. Creative ways of thinking can leverage your company higher than the one next to you when it comes to marketing and innovation. All in all, business without creativity will crumble, which is why it’s so important to strengthen your team’s creativity skills to inspire new innovative ideas.
CFOInnovation. Innovation: Championing 3M’s Post-it Notes. (www.cfoinnovation.com/innovation-championing-3m-s-post-it-notes) Accessed June 28, 2022.
Creativity at Work. What is Creativity? (And why is it a crucial factor to business success?). (www.creativityatwork.com/what-is-creativity) Accessed June 27, 2022.
INC. Want to Boost Your Bottom Line? Encourage Your Employees to Work on Side Projects. (www.inc.com/adam-robinson/google-employees-dedicate-20-percent-of-their-time-to-side-projects-heres-how-it-works) Accessed June 27, 2022.
Ideawake. Post-it Notes: An Employee Idea That Was Originally a Mistake. (ideawake.com/post-it-notes-employee-idea-that-was-originally-mistake) Accessed June 27, 2022.
Workamajig. 35 Team Building Activities Your Team Will Actually Love. (www.workamajig.com/blog/team-building-activities) Accessed June 27, 2022.