A guest blog from Danielle at Purple Monster, part two of a series, as we start to explore how creativity and innovation can be encouraged at an individual and team level...
There are plenty of “innovation processes” around- even though applying a process to innovation sounds counter-intuitive- but things that can help in this area (like Design Thinking, Lean Start Up and Customer Development) need a culture where creative and innovative thinking can be supported to thrive.
The fact is, that the potential to find creative solutions and apply innovative thought exists everywhere, and it doesn’t have to be revolutionary or ground-breaking– or even particularly large– to make a difference.
In our experience, there are three levels where the necessary climate can be encouraged: Individual, Team and Leadership. In this post, we’re going to share with you some practical ways of how you can encourage a higher degree of creativity and innovation at an individual and team level.
Improving individual creative thinking skills.
Everyone can be more creative. That may seem unlikely to some of you, and it’s true that some people are naturally more creative than others, but organisations can provide opportunities for anyone to enhance and increase their ability to think in a more creative way. Here are a few…
1. Help employees to develop ‘T’ shaped experience.
Some individuals know their specialist domain really well, but also have a wide range of knowledge in other areas such as hobbies, interests, studies or experience from previous roles. Opportunities to increase their specialised knowledge and also their appreciation of a wider selection of topics will boost their creativity.
Encourage them to use the resources available via TED talks and MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) …
Support them to do work experience in other business areas or organisations….
Develop cross functional collaboration by holding teambuilding sessions with other business areas…
Give them the opportunity to attend industry or local networking events or seminars….
…all of these things increase an individual’s ‘T’ shaped knowledge providing enhanced knowledge across a diverse range of subjects.
2. Develop key creative problem-solving skills.
These aren’t necessarily tangible, measurable attributes, but qualities such as resilience, perseverance and a willingness to take risks and experiment. Innovation and creativity rely on the ability to bounce back after setbacks, so by building these skills, individuals will be more comfortable and therefore more proficient at creative problem solving.
3. Truly engage people in order to increase levels of intrinsic motivation.
Research has demonstrated conclusively that offering extrinsic rewards, such as bonuses, do not improve the level of creativity in individuals. By contrast, intrinsic motivation – the desire to solve a problem or solving a challenge because it is personally interesting – does increase levels of creativity. If you look to understand what motivates employees at an individual level, and provide opportunities for them to get involved with challenges they feel most drawn to, you will see an upsurge in innovative thinking. Don’t let it wither on the vine though. Always remember to reward people with praise, and offer opportunities for further development.
Building teams which encourage, support and promote creative outcomes.
A supportive climate is vital. People who are actively looking to become more creative thinkers can find their efforts being encouraged or crushed depending on the team environment they work in. There are some aspects of team working which can encourage the former and avoid the latter.
1. Build trust.
Individuals within a team need to feel that they trust each other. By your actions and attitude, you must exemplify the qualities you need others to show. You need to create an atmosphere where it is easy to trust other team members to support, encourage and nurture ideas.
“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.” – Ovid
Taking time to develop trust between team members is a critical element of building a creative team. Individuals, no matter how well developed their personal creative thinking skills are, won’t be able to flourish in a team environment where trust isn’t present. Tools such as the Trust Equation, and taking time to develop understanding and how these tools can be applied, will help in this respect.
2. Create teams that are diverse in terms of skills, experience and knowledge.
Diversity in a team encourages different perspectives and ideas. A team with a wide range of experiences, skills and knowledge is more likely to promote unique combinations of thoughts. To maximise the benefits of having such a team, individuals should be skilled in understanding and appreciating different perspectives – and trusting the value that others can bring to a topic. Innovation teams can be a mixture of operational personnel, directors, and people who just like getting things done. Abandon notions of hierarchy or authority, and allow them to bring their own insights to promote the inspiration of novel ideas. Unique combinations of contributions can encourage sharing, and everyone can build on ideas: behaviour that is critical to creativity and innovation.
3. Train people in how to use non-personal conflict.
Teams that encourage and promote creativity should expect to experience some conflict and challenge. This is a critical part of any robust development process, but this conflict needs to be non-personal to avoid damage to the trust and openness a good creative team needs. Developing skills in providing and receiving feedback are a good way of achieving this. Making people feel comfortable in challenging ideas, as well as seeing the feedback on their ideas as a positive, helpful experience, rather than a personal attack, is hugely important.
4. Maintaining team cohesion and spirit.
It will come as no surprise that a team that has high levels of creative thinking is usually found to have a good team dynamic, and features strong connections between individuals within that team. It is this element that leads to well-known ‘creative companies’ having table football and social activities woven into the fabric of their office environment. Opportunities for teams to ‘play’ together creates stronger connections, and helps people to feel comfortable bouncing ideas off each other to jointly develop creative outcomes.
This wouldn’t be much of a post on creativity and innovation if it didn’t call for your input, so… what do you think? Do you agree that all organisations have the capability to increase their proportion of creative and innovative thinkers? How else can the organisational climate support innovation processes and methodologies?
Do you want to increase the level of creative and innovative thinking in your team or organisations?
Are you looking for advice on how to build a ‘climate for creative outcomes’?
Are you interested in how to create a project team that is able to develop creative solutions to business challenges?
Get in touch with us below and we can walk you through some ideas and solutions.
If you’re interested in finding out more about getting the culture and processes in place to promote creativity and innovation, then contact either Danielle from Purple Monster at email@example.com or Kate from Freestyle Innovation at firstname.lastname@example.org.