Creativity has always been associated with successful business people. After all, some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs have also been some of the world’s most creative thinkers, but in our current business climate it's more important than ever before.
The old adage says, ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’, but not anymore. In an increasingly automated and competitive world, the old ways of working just won’t cut it – teams must get creative or risk being left behind. This year, Forbes listed critical thinking, creativity and collaboration amongst their top skills for the next decade. Managers hold a huge sway over the success of their team, and boosting overall creativity is the perfect way to secure exactly that.
But what management hacks will elevate your team’s creativity to new dizzying heights?
Hire inspiring intrapreneurs
A manager is a bit like the captain of the ship – with the right leadership, a voyage will be positive and successful, but even the best captain can’t get to where they’re going without a strong crew behind them. That’s why it’s essential you hire the right people in the first place. We all know about entrepreneurs, but what about intrapreneurs? The term refers to employees who innovate within a business, and the benefits they bring are multifold.
Common qualities associated with intrapreneurs include:
That latter trait is especially important, as an intrapreneur who isn't ready to collaborate with their peers may well breakaway with great ideas, leaving the rest of their colleagues out in the cold. Still, with the right person, an intrapreneur can also encourage the rest of the team to be braver, bolder and more ambitious in their daily work.
Never let anyone tell you mindset doesn’t matter. The psychologist Carol Dweck proved many years ago that mindset has a huge impact on success via her research into growth and fixed mindsets. While those with a growth mindset believe in an individual’s ability to improve, people with a fixed mindset believe that factors such as talent and intelligence are innate and unchangeable – in other words, you can’t teach someone to be better. These beliefs have a huge impact, in fact, a growth mindset trumps even IQ as an indicator of future success. It’s important to know that our brains are malleable. As time goes on, scientists find more and more evidence of neuroplasticity and the benefits of retraining your thinking. Lead by example and believe in your team’s ability to improve and grow through curiosity and practice, and the creative fruits will naturally follow.
Eliminate fear of failure
Failure is an essential ingredient to success. To some this may sound oxymoronic, but you cannot succeed if you have not first failed. And this is not based on purely anecdotal evidence, The Scientific American used data analysis to conclude that failure is an essential prerequisite to achieving success in much the same way that creativity itself is necessary. Teams take cues from their managers, so if you’re nervous about failure, or even angry in the face of it, your team will naturally become cautious and risk-averse. While it’s perfectly reasonable to want your team to strive for positive outcomes, if it’s at the cost of innovation and calculated risks, your wins will ultimately be small and short lived. Conversely, showing your team that you encourage free-thinking and understand that mistakes will be made from time-to-time will allow them to truly let loose with ideas which will ultimately strike gold.
Oftentimes, managers treat creativity as an event rather than a process. They’ll gather their team around a clip board and demand they share their best ideas. Well, let me tell you, that is not how creativity happens. In actual fact, the elusive first step of creativity – inspiration – happens on a level that is not even conscious. Research from the University of British Columbia shows that when we daydream, our brains light up even more than when we’re doing focused work. So, if you’re looking to get your team’s creative juices flowing you shouldn’t demand ideas, but instead, give them space to doodle, walk, and generally get into daydreaming mode. If you’re looking for ideas in relation to a particular project, have your team first fuel up on related information and then let the daydreaming do the idea brewing in the interim. The ideas which emerge from this subconscious space will reach new levels of originality never achieved on-demand.
Remember, these hacks will work even better if you’re open with your team about the new approaches you’re taking. A team is at its best when there is transparency and a shared vision - that way, everyone is pulling in the same direction. Creative workers commonly rank as the most happy, so by making room for creative contribution you can both boost your team’s success and improve employee satisfaction at the same time.
Chris Griffiths is author of The Creative Thinking Handbook and founder of Ayoa