Creativity in the form of new, highly targeted products and services and refined customer support are the lifeblood of middle-market companies. Thus, the smart executive aims to nourish creativity in his or her workforce.
Lest you think creativity is some touchy-feely subject for academics, think again.
The consequences of discouraging creativity can be dire. Missed revenue opportunities are just the first outcome. Employees who feel hemmed in become unmotivated and may even leave your organization in order to pursue their good ideas elsewhere.
Why is creativity so important?
Whether it’s supporting a client, finding a better way to produce a product, or streamlining a process, it takes creativity to make these things happen. The good news is that medium-sized companies offer some distinct advantages to the highly creative employee.
Thecompany is large enough to offer opportunities that small companies simply don’t have the resources for while large companies often are too bureaucratic for fast innovation.
How do you, the owners of a middle-market business, foster and maintain creativity in the workplace?
5 Steps to Fostering Creativity
Ernest & Young Global Limited found 82 percent of surveyed entrepreneurs “strongly agreed that innovation was critical to the growth of their business.” However, half of those same leaders said their companies failed to include innovation in their strategic plans.
Professor Teresa Amabile, director of research at Harvard Business School, studies how companies successfully support creativity in the workplace. Among her recommendations:
- Give the team or individual in charge of coming up with a solution the time they need. Creativity requires focus. No one can be creative when they have competing priorities and too much to do.
- Build time for reflection into the business day. This means no meetings, no interruptions, no answering emails. Some companies build one day a week or a month into their system. Thirty to 60 minutes a day is another alternative.
Performance improvement expert Lisa Jasper of Insperity finds that successful leaders inspire creativity and in their workforce in specific ways. She says that leaders of creative teams should:
- Recognize that creativity can be a messy process. Give your the Post-it note is a perfect example of this in action). the space to make mistakes as they try new solutions and adjust things until the winning solution is found. Resist the urge to punish or criticize those who make mistakes. After all, that mistake could be one step from a breakthrough (
- Promote two-way feedback. Encourage those around you to ask questions, challenge assumptions (even yours), and listen. The quickest route to stifling creativity is to denigrate or dismiss others’ opinions and ideas.
- Set priorities, be available for questions and support, but don’t try to control the process too much. You, the leader, need to set the deadlines and project parameters, and be the coach. Using a baseball team as an example, you’re the coach, and as such you put the right players on the field, make calls, and motivate the team. You don’t get out on the field and play yourself.
Be particularly careful if you tend to resist change. The drive for creativity comes from the top. Remind yourself that creativity doesn’t live in the land of “we’ve always done it this way.” Having loyal, engaged employees will lead to your company’s growth, profitability, and longevity.
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