[This is the first of a series on ways to encourage creativity into the workplace.]
Creativity is for every business, whether we sell tires or advertising. Creativity is foundational for all success. It is about the ability to think, work with what’s available, and identify and solve problems. What could be more important in the workplace than that?
Exchanging creativity for unquestioning obedience, towing the company line, and a “that’s not my job” mentality is a losing situation. We must actively encourage creativity to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Creativity happens in different “places”, some more obvious than others.
- Physical Space. A designated location where brainstorming and creativity occur helps us switch gears and have permission to set aside usual work for a time. Maybe it’s around a conference table, or in front of a whiteboard. Gathering here is a clear signal to everyone that creativity will commence.
- Personal Space. We each need space that we feel is ours. Within reason (i.e. no Jacuzzi installed in the cubicle), being given the freedom to feel safe and “at home” where we work is vital.
- Mental Space. Sometimes we need to be given permission to think, to be silent, to join in, or to not answer in favor of processing a request. Introverts and people who aren’t impulsive, especially, need ample mental space.
- Clock Space. If no time is set aside for being creative, we tend to leave it until an emergency demands solutions. Regular creative meetings, especially in the scope of a specific project, keep everyone informed and help spawn solutions to problems we didn’t know existed.
- Exploratory Space. Field trips aren’t just for school kids. Exposing people to something unfamiliar and is a great way to jump-start creativity, whether that’s a field trip or in-house education or event. Unfamiliar territory is where new ideas and the discovery of new interests come from.
Is there room for creativity where we work, or has it been squeezed out in favor of being “productive”? Creativity is what ensures long-lasting productivity. Without it, productivity dwindles into nothing more than mere clocking in and out.
Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things – Ray Bradbury
Idea centers fall into the category of actual physical spaces, even if they are online in a protected website accesible only to a select group. They are more than just a break room or social network. They are designated as a “dumping” ground for ideas with very few boundaries, allowing many forms (writing, drawing, found objects, clippings, etc.) and allowing anonymity (as long as things remain appropriate and do not contain personal attacks).
Idea centers may consist of (whether actual or online):
- Whiteboards. Their strength is their immediacy and simplicity. They can be erased, so old ideas don’t drag down tomorrow’s fresh idea. We can make a photo of a whiteboard before erasing if we want to reference any content created on it, since they are transitory in nature.
- Bulletin Boards. These allow for additive collaboration, pinning things of interest like a collage, building on what others have shared. At some point they, too, will have to be cleaned off, so a picture may be warranted.
- Idea Book. Having a blank book where people can write, draw, tape, clip, staple, and glue whatever they want to creates a fine reference tool, a creative release for employees, and a simple way for people to feel like they, as a team, made it. It could be as simple as a notebook, or something more elaborate. Once a book is full, it can be added to the company library or bookshelf.
These are just a few possibilities. Having an outlet makes it easy for us to find something interesting and think “this is a perfect idea at work, I think I’ll share it.” Having a place and the tools to do that makes sense.
We should be able to use these creative spaces without fear of reprisal. It might even mean asking everyone to put in 20 minutes a week to get the habit of creativity started.
Ready to make space for creativity in your workplace? There’s no time like the present. This week, do at least one of the activities below:
- Choose two or more Creative Spaces and incorporate them into your workplace.
- Allot time for employees to take a 15 minute break to just brainstorm and be creative without an need to be realistic or connected to a project at work. Have them do this in a designated Idea Center if you have one.
- Organize an office “Field Trip” somewhere. Take your employees to the zoo, for example, and give them the assignment to come up with three new ideas based on what they see there.
Red the rest of the series on Creativity in the Workplace: