Human skills are always needed despite the rise of automation. Skills such as creativity cannot be easily borrowed, replicated or programmed by a machine. According to LinkedIn’s data, companies see creativity is the number one soft skill in 2019. Creativity makes businesses more competitive. Organizations that welcome brave decisions and unusual thinking are rewarded with innovative ideas that help drive results. Thereby, individual creativity is an asset that no business will want to be without.
How can you unleash creativity in your workforce? Here are five essential steps to take.
1. Hire for innovation
The first step in cultivating an innovative environment is to attract and hire talented and passionate people. Are you highlighting opportunities to work on exciting projects in your job ad? Is your hiring process so rigid that it doesn’t allow room for candidates to express their creative side? When assessing candidates, ask a candidate to solve an open-ended project so you can see their creative process.
You can even throw in wildcard questions, such as “What five items would you bring to Mars if you are among the first human colony? Or if you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?” These types of questions gets people thinking and helps you see how their mind works. Asking people about their interests and what they’re reading are also some ways to gauge someone’s creativity and thirst for learning.
2. Make work purposeful
Innovation can’t happen if people aren’t invested in the work they’re doing. People want a clear sense of purpose and feel that their contributions matter. When your employees’ interest, motivation and talent are aligned with the organization’s mission and objectives, they are more inclined to innovate and bring forth new ideas to the team. As a leader, it’s important to find out what your employees are passionate about. Ask questions that spark energy and insight. Are there particular projects that interest them more? Do they have any feedback on how to improve the current process? By being open to new ideas and actioning them in some way, your employees will also have the incentive to speak about future ideas that they may have.
3. Allocate time for new ideas
Scientists have understood for some time that stress and time constraints dampen innovation. Creativity often takes place when we give ourselves time to unwind, whether it’s by going for a walk or taking a shower. Our mind needs to wander into thoughtfulness—but ultimately thoughtful—daydream to discover inspiration. This is a concept Manoush Zomorodi explains brilliantly in her Ted Talk. Ironically, this involves creating a structure for unstructured innovation. Give your employees the flexibility and time to break out of their typical routine and normal working environment. Create a distraction-free space that’s devoid of technology, so employees have the mind and space to start and think more creatively.
As well, brainstorming doesn’t have to be restricted to specific projects. Consider organizing workshops, encouraging your employees to attend industry events, and have discussions outside of the office to break the day-to-day routine and mindset of your team. Make creativity a priority by giving your team a percentage of their time to explore and prototype new ideas.
4. Encourage diverse viewpoints
Innovation is a team sport. It involves gather people with different expertise, personalities, and background to exchange their diverse views and ideas. For instance, during brainstorm sessions, have everyone take turns sharing their insights so that each person’s view matter. An inviting and open office space with a whiteboard for brainstorming can also enable creative input from various team members. Innovation should also take place between different departments. For instance, when marketing and sales are aligned, they can come up with better ways to support clients. Breaking down silos and encouraging cross-departmental collaboration inspires new ways of thinking.
5. Embrace failure
The ability to fail leads to innovation. Failure is a part of the learning curve. If your employees are making mistakes or if their ideas fail, it’s important that you tolerate the error and encourage them to learn from it. On the other hand, berating people for their ideas discourages them from putting forward future ideas for fear of failing again. Focusing on constructive criticism and encouraging ongoing learning creates a space where people are comfortable experimenting and trying new things.
The future of work is creative and as automation replaces repetitive jobs, more jobs that require creativity are cropping up. By implementing the above steps, you can help foster an innovative culture to help your company and team face challenges of the future.
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