Too many entrepreneurs and small business owners discover that the creative impulse that launched—or advanced—their careers gets lost in the shuffle once they get busy running the business. But creativity represents a significant competitive edge, regardless of your venture or the size of your company. The trick is building an environment where you can unleash the creative potential of your talented employees.
Building a Creative Team
Of course, it’s not possible to issue a company-wide mandate (“Be creative!”) and expect ideas to start flowing. The process doesn’t work that way. Instead, try these tips for fostering an atmosphere where creativity is encouraged, recognized, rewarded and—when the idea is right—executed.
1. Start with the physical surroundings.
What does your workplace look like? Think about the offices of advertising agencies or design firms where ideas are the lifeblood of the business. Generally, these spaces are large and airy with lots of light and a sense of free-flowing motion. Wherever possible, give employees a creative working space to think and spur each other on in a collaborative enterprise.
2. Identify creative individuals.
Some people are more imaginative than others (though everyone has the potential to come up with a great idea). Try assessing employees with an eye for their “creative quotient.” Enlist these people for special projects or to help encourage new employees to bring their own latent creativity to the table.
3. Include creativity in the training process.
As noted, some people come to the table with more innate creative powers—but that doesn’t mean the same skill can’t be learned by others. Train your team on effective brainstorming techniques, then let them loose in a free-flowing session. While you’re at it, trying mixing and matching small groups with people of diverse experience and cultural backgrounds.
4. Practice creativity.
Business problems demand creative solutions. When an issue arises, turn it over to your creative team for suggestions and ideas. Give them every opportunity possible to exercise their imaginations.
5. Recognize and reward creativity (and accept failure).
Not every creative idea is the best idea, but creative efforts must always be recognized and rewarded appropriately. Making it clear that an idea that doesn’t work still represents a valiant effort encourages people to try again—rather than hold back from risk of a negative response. When an employee’s creative solution does work, it’s cause for company-wide celebration.
6. Allow time for play and reflection.
Back in the day, “work” meant work—sitting at your desk, attending to your individual responsibilities and so on. In a more creative environment, employees are given time and space away from everyday routines (and interpersonal dramas) because ideas need to incubate in order to come to fruition. Another means of encouraging this behavior is giving people the opportunity to spontaneously come together for some harmless fun, thus reinforcing the benefits of trust and collaboration.
7. Model creative behavior yourself.
Employees tend to model the positive traits exhibited by the CEO or business owner, so roll up your sleeves and start thinking creatively along with your team. Make it clear from your behavior that all ideas are welcome and some creative solutions require time and experimentation in order to demonstrate their full potential. You build the culture you want by modeling creative behavior yourself.
8. Execute on the best ideas.
Just as nothing dampens the creative spirit more than ignoring great ideas, so your team will flourish once they see their best ideas implemented into business processes.
Creative employees take pride in their contributions to the company’s growth. And who can say where the creative spirit will lead to next?
We invite you to join other entrepreneurs, CEOs, and senior-level executives in a confidential group setting where you’ll be challenged and rewarded like never before in your professional life. Learn more about becoming a Catapult Group member today.