[This is the final post in our series on ways to encourage creativity into the workplace.]
Creativity can be killed.
It might happen on purpose (let’s hope not!) or it might happen slowly through lack of nurturing. Starting a culture of creativity, and helping it thrive, are both purposeful decisions. Otherwise, creativity loses its momentum and the workplace reverts back to a kind of lowest-common-denominator of existence, the bare minimum required to get the job done.
How do you help creativity grow in your workplace? How do you keep it from dying?
Creativity Killer Myths
Stereotypes and myths surround creativity, and letting these take root will kill any creativity that is trying to grow, no matter what stage it is in.
- Creativity is messy. Clutter isn’t good. It keeps you from finding things you need, wastes time, and increases procrastination. Keeping control of things is directly connected to freeing up the mind. The absent-minded professor or eclectic artsy stereotype aside, clutter will create a roadblock at some point. It might keep you creative in a set of boundaries, but it is restrictive. Creativity isn’t the same as being messy.
- Creativity can’t be scheduled. We’ve covered this extensively on this blog, but the truth is, being able to schedule creativity is a strength and a must. We each still get great ideas at off times, and should take advantage of that, but training ourselves to be creative when necessary can be done. Sometimes we need solutions at 3:15 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon.
- Creativity is for artists. Creativity isn’t synonymous with ‘artistic’, yet people will often respond to a request for being creative with “I can’t even draw a straight line.” Most artists can’t draw straight lines, either. Everyone can be creative in their own way. Creative thinking is for everyone, every job, every day.
- Creativity isn’t measurable. Businesses want proof that what they invest in, whether it’s time or people, has value. They want to know the return on the investment (ROI). Creativity is tough to measure because it manifests itself in different ways. It might be responsible for an amazing solution and satisfied client. But those regular creative events and activities that weren’t project-specific, that might seem like a waste of time? They were the foundation for that amazing solution. They made it possible for the team to come together and create that solution.
- Creativity comes naturally. For some people, being creative comes naturally, sure. But creativity is something to be practiced by everyone. Sooner or later there will be time when it won’t be ‘easy’ and that’s where having practiced comes in handy. Practice methods for working through blocks, for working as a team, for setting aside distractions, for creating on a schedule. Natural abilities still need refinement through practice. Creativity is no different. Make it a regular practice.
Don’t let these myths to take hold. They will kill creativity in their own subtle way.
If you want to be original, you have to accept the uncertainty, even when it’s uncomfortable, and have the capability to recover when your organization takes a big risk and fails. What’s the key to being able to recover? Talented people! — Ed Catmull, Co-founder of Pixar
The Creative Power Of Individuals and Teams
Individuals lose objectivity with their own ideas, or make them too precious. Teams easily slip into group-think and make consensus and compromise more important than a creative solution. Understand these tendencies, and consider:
Individuals come up with ideas. Teams refine them.
Keeping creativity alive and growing means using both the individual and the team, and not one over the other. It means knowing how they work together best, and when to bring people together to work or to split them apart for new ideas. Having a team helps when it comes time to schedule creativity. Some in the team might be on, some off, but together they function as a creative whole and can bounce and generate ideas off of each other. Making use of individual creativity is good when the ideas seem to be stuck in a rut.
How do you help creativity grow?
Don’t fall for the myths. Then, see the power of the individual creator, and the strength of the team. Use them both. Regularly.
Do It Now
Ready to make creativity grow in your workplace? There’s no time like the present. This week, do at least one of the activities below:
- Study how other companies foster creativity. As a start, learn about IDEO and how they approach creativity for problem solving. Watch the video “The Deep Dive” (there are several related videos there – be sure to watch them).
- Set up a regular schedule for creative activities. If creativity strikes outside of the schedule, by all means, go with it. However, when ideas seem dried out, stick with the schedule and work through it.
- Make a creative challenge for the team. Provide a problem, and the boundaries for the solution. Use this technique regularly, as part of practicing creativity.
- Make something. Nothing brings people together like making something, so if a team seems fragmented, ask: what can the team make together? Have a “make something” time set aside, whether each week or each month.