Encouraging Creative Thinking in the Workplace

Everybody has a creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world. ~ Paulo Coelho

Creative Thinking at Work

It’s a rare business these days that doesn’t value creativity. Most employers appreciate the power of an innovative idea, and would like to create an environment that’s conducive to creative thinking, but may be unsure how to proceed.

How to Make It Happen

Simply saying “bring me your ideas” isn’t going to work. So, how can you actively encourage creative thinking in the workplace? Here are some suggestions.

1. Support Creative Thinking

This may sound obvious, but often employees don’t want to take the risk of coming forward with what they think is a great idea because they’re not sure how the employer will respond. They may be unsure of getting a positive reception, and afraid of negative consequences if the idea doesn’t work out as planned.

Here’s where the employer has to make it known that risk-taking won’t be punished. It can take time to get the message across that creative thinking will be supported, and it’s essential that management make it known that they will be open-minded and non-judgmental when presented with suggestions.

2. Allow for Confidentiality

Face it, sometimes people are shy. One of your people may have a great idea, but feel uncomfortable approaching you – in this instance it’s not you in particular, it’s just people in general. Why not revive the old idea of a suggestion box? People can have anonymity if they want it, and still be part of the creative process.

3. Reward Creative Thinking

It’s human nature for people to wonder “What’s in it for me?” If you want your team to bring you their ideas, offering some type of reward for the best suggestion in a given time period is a great way to motivate. That way, even if a person’s suggestion ends up not being implemented, there isn’t the perception that it’s just a waste of time and effort offering it in the first place.

A reward doesn’t have to be huge. It could be a monetary bonus, or a day off with pay – just a tangible way of saying “Thank you” that doesn’t break the bank.

4. Create Teams

For a more structured way of encouraging creative thinking, you could set up teams of innovative thinkers. Assign a task to each team. Have them come up with ideas that will improve a specific aspect of your operation.

5. Set deadlines and offer rewards.

Be careful not to be too rigid in the type of assignment you hand out, though – you don’t want your people to perceive this as a way of forcing something – creativity – that by its very nature can’t be forced.

6. Build a Diverse Workforce

If all your employees come from similar backgrounds and have essentially the same qualifications, they’re probably going to think in much the same ways. This may be great for morale, but it’s bound to be stifling when it comes to creativity. If everyone’s in agreement all the time, new ideas just aren’t going to happen – the environment isn’t conducive to creativity.

This doesn’t mean that you have to set up a program for hiring where it’s “pick one from column A, two from column B” and so on – it just means that you should try to compose your staff, whenever possible, from people whose backgrounds and profiles are different. This gives you a personality mix that allows for creative thought.

7. Loosen Up a Bit

If your workplace environment is too serious, this could have an adverse effect on creativity. When people are having fun at work, they tend to be more inspired. If they’re just waiting until it’s time to punch out, the mood at work isn’t positive, and creative thinking will be stifled.

Encourage Creativity

If you want your people to bring you creative ideas, you have to encourage them to do so. This means that you have to make it known that creativity is valued, and then create an environment that is conducive to creative thinking. Give your people the encouragement and the tools they need to be creative, and you’ll reap the rewards.

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