In April, I wrote the article Are you Afraid of Creativity (Are you Afraid of Creativity? – Courage Unravelled). I promised that I would be back to write on creativity in the workplace. Here it is.
I am a personal advocate for creativity. I don’t need courage to be creative (as usually I relish the opportunity) but I know people who do because to be creative means stepping into the unknown, not trusting yourself or the process. The thought of creativity can even challenge the inner perfectionist who may have thoughts around ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I don’t have a creative bone in my body’ and so doesn’t try. All of these factors put a brake on creativity until the person decides to tap into courage by leaning into fear, discomfort and vulnerability and go with it. You see, creativity allows for mistakes, welcomes fluidity, adaptation and new direction. It’s the human ‘mind-blocks’ that become the problem.
Organisational researcher Koustab Ghosh defines creativity as the ability to produce novel work. It allows individuals to transform possibilities into reality and is the starting point and root of innovation (Ghosh, 2015, p3), the commercialisation arm of creative ideas.
From creativity comes the emergence of innovation. Creativity and innovation work hand-in-hand to create and fine-tune products, work processes and services in a company (or small business) environment and contributes to not only the survival of a business but it’s ability to thrive and succeed (Ghosh, 2015,p2).
In the Report of the 2011 Thinker in Residence: Unlocking Creativity, Paul Collard determined creativity as being a vital ingredient in the future economic success of developed economies.
Creativity in the workplace is important for competitive edge in business, organisational longevity, keeping talented creative driven staff, and remaining dynamic and current in industry.
Consider the value of creativity.
- Courage – lean into discomfort and vulnerability of an idea. It takes courage to share your idea with others as you are risking feedback you may not want to hear.
- Imagination – dare to dream
- Resilience – when things don’t go to plan
- Inspiration – welcome it in the workspace
- Discovery – where new ideas can take you
- Opportunity for innovation – potential for commercialisation
- Organisation – a great skill to have
- Persistence – a great skill to have
- Intrinsic motivation – internally driven because ‘you want to’ not because you have to.
- Discipline – great skill to have
- Concentration – great skill to have
- Collaboration – opens up opportunity to grow
- Excitement – when there is progress and achievement
- Confidence – when there is success in the outcome or progress is being made
- Love your work – job satisfaction is gold
- Self-leadership – observation, awareness of behaviours, self-correction, self-reward
- Skill development in creativity (whether it comes naturally or not; whether it’s domain specific or not)
- Personal and professional growth – pure gold
(adapted from Collard, 2017, Ghosh, 2015 and personal professional experiences)
Imagine all of these attributes in the workplace. This is a big opportunity for kicking some innovative goals as well as improving staff morale and productivity.
Considerations for management or the business owner
What does it take for an employer to allow for innovation and creativity to happen in the workplace? A few important factors include, being able to surrender control; embrace change; and be open to new and different ways of thinking.
Give people permission to create and innovate and share with the organisation to see whether there is opportunity for growth or commercialisation of a product, service or process. Allow staff to develop creative and innovation skills through training and education, and acknowledge and reward success and progress.
The organisational climate for creativity to flourish
For creativity to be a genuine aspect of organisational culture, appropriate parameters need to be established. They look like this:
- Safety first. Employees need to feel safe knowing that they can create in a workplace without fear of reprisal, projects being taken away because of errors (that can be rectified), feeling ok to communicate at times of vulnerability and knowing it won’t be abused in the future.
- A supportive environment. This means the employee is supported by supervisors and management in ideation, process and implementation. Support is also offered when challenges/obstacles arise and a solution needs to be found.
- Risk responsibility. The employee has autonomy to weigh up risk or has the opportunity to discuss risk with a superior. Weigh up risk before the project begins.
- Allow mistakes to happen providing no harm comes from it and learn from them.
- Fair and constructive feedback.
- Responsibility – be clear with who is responsible for a project and what that responsibility looks like.
- Company ethics. These are to be transparent to employees so they know where they stand during the creative process.
- Space to create – is it an intra-office creative hub/think tank or can it be at home?
- Ambience – discuss what is required for creativity to successfully flourish in the workspace.
- Freedom to communicate transparently and to be listened to.
- Being able to try a new way if the first attempt doesn’t work.
- Have an adequate budget to cover resources required.
- Interaction through collaboration, emotional and functional support, knowledge sharing sessions.
- Being clear on purpose. The ‘why’ behind being open to embracing creativity in the workplace.
The benefits of embracing a creative organisational culture
Imagine for a moment it’s worth the effort to embrace creativity in the workplace. To make it part of the fabric of organisational culture.
Research, as well as my own professional experiences, indicates some worthwhile benefits:
- Increased employee confidence and self-esteem through success and achievement,
- Increased productivity (people undertaking projects they love to do)
- Mentorship and role modeling opportunities
- Being a leader in a domain specialty
- Teamwork skill development
- A culture in which diversity is welcomed and part of an organisation’s ongoing success.
These outcome opportunities are pure gold at both an organisational and personal level. It takes commitment and effort to establish though and is best done when working on the business (planning, strategy and direction) rather than being constantly caught up in the day-to-day running of the business.
Creativity is a positive way to breakdown a perfectionist mindset, tackle fear, lean into discomfort and take risks. It’s up to the company to determine the level of risk it will allow and to communicate that to staff.
Creativity which leads to innovation can provide purpose to the people within an organisation but needs to be fostered and encouraged.
It takes courage to move into this space as many employers do not understand or appreciate the value of creativity in a workplace but, 2011 Resident Thinker of Unlocking Creativity, Paul Collard does. He sees the importance of keeping creative arts in school curriculums and not just STEM subjects because the students of today will be the employees, contractors, business owners and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Organisations need to understand that creativity is the heart and pulse of an organisation. You have your STEM specialists but the artists (social science warriors) are the ones who can show you new ways of being, thinking and doing.
- Collard, P. Report of the 2011 Thinker in Residence: Unlocking Creativity. For the Commissioner for Children and Young People. 2011. WA
- Ghosh, K. Dr. (2015). ‘Developing Organisational Creativity and Innovation: Toward a model of self-leadership, employee creativity, creativity climate and Workplace Innovative Orientation’. Management Research Review, Vol. 38 No. 11, pp. 1126-148. https://doi.org/10.1108/MRR-01-2014-0017
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