Companies look for that X-factor that will distinguish them from their competitors and yield higher prominence to them in the market. For that, it is important that workplace potential is harnessed optimally and employees are given a conducive environment to develop their creative potential. If ever a proof of the same was required, then Google’s 20 percent program should settle it. Google allows its developers to spend 20% of a working day on side projects. The aim is to elicit, nurture and advance creativity and innovation by allowing space and time for innovation to employees. And if ever a doubt was cast on its efficacy then the origin of some of Google’s best products like Gmail, Google Talk from this scheme should quash it.
Creativity may be inborn but it needs the right environment and stimuli to flourish. As an employer it is your prerogative to ensure that such a climate exists at your workplace. But the million dollar question is: how do we produce such an environment? Let us look at a few techniques which can foster creativity in the workplace:
A key element in ensuring creativity is to be empathic to the process of creativity. Ensure that boredom finds no place in your work structure. Junior employees often complain, and not without reason, that they get to do repetitive, and mundane work and as the axiom goes - familiarity breeds contempt. An employee will not be motivated by an easy task which she/he is too well versed with. Their interest will be piqued when there is an element of challenge – unfamiliarity in the task. When an employee feels that there is an opportunity to learn something that he/she does not know, their interest and creative prowess will be amplified automatically.
Often a challenge brings forth the best in a person. Employees prefer a task that sets a premium upon its solution and challenges their creative potential. Take the example of the ubiquitous Walkman of the late 70’s. One day, Sony co-founder Akio Morita challenged his chief engineers to create a hi-fi no bigger than a small wooden block. The challenge fired the imagination of his engineers and led to the release of the Walkman in 1979. Creative people like challenges — the more challenging the task, the better.
You must ensure that creativity is placed at par with the other facets of the job, if not higher. Creative ideas which lead to an increase in efficiency should be rewarded proportionally. This will create the necessary motivation for it. However, we may ask: how should we decide on the reward? Money, bonus, awards……? I am afraid, No! they can be useful but creativity and innovation cannot be ensured by these factors only. For starters honest praise and appreciation is a good way to keep the employee motivated. Employees often treasure praise from people they respect — such as their peers, boss or mentor. Remember: “While a difficult task may be worth his while, a thankless task is not.”
Without implementation, no reward or incentive can motivate the employee to engage in creative thinking. The creative suggestions put forth by the employees must be turned into action. It is not enough to simply gather creative ideas. If an employee discerns that their creative ideas are not implemented, their motivation is likely to be reduced. A reward will not offer an employee the same satisfaction as its implementation.
Often the employees may be hesitant to divulge their ideas for fear of making mistakes. The employees need to be reassured that mistakes are a part of creative phenomenon. Creativity, in fact, works often by hit and trial method till one settles into a creative pattern. Employer support is one of the key elements of a creative workplace. If the employer is unresponsive and unsupportive, the employees will be scared away from experimenting in all likelihood.
Instead of providing assignments with restricted guidelines and instructions, apprise the employee of the ultimate goal of the assignment. Allow them to get the work done, as and how they please, with minimal interference on your part. Trust the employee’s capacity to deliver. This makes the employees feel motivated and recognize that they have authority and power over their fields.
Exchange of ideas is difficult in a situation where everybody thinks alike. Employees should be therefore hired from diverse backgrounds, qualifications and skills. Homogeneity can lead, undoubtedly, to greater team bonding and a stronger inter-personal relationship. However, this will prove to be the bane of creativity at the drawing board. A uniform and agreeable crowd can prove to be a serious impediment for creative ideas to flourish. You could consider relaxing the norms for recruiting your staff and allow for a more diverse criterion in your selection. This will permit diversity in the workplace. Hiring staff from different domains and background and allowing them to mingle around, in projects is a handy tool for ensuring creativity in the workplace. Organize more informal interactions between employees with dissimilar profiles to facilitate exchange of thoughts.
it’s important be fair to your employees, treat them with respect and make sure your employees never get a perception of being wronged for it leads to a total erosion of motivation and creativity.
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a content writer with Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.