Want to encourage creative solutions to issues and challenges facing your team or workplace? Researchers at Harvard Business School think they have the answer.
1. Engaged workers are creative workers
There’s little to support the widely held view that financial incentives encourage creativity, but there’s considerable evidence that emotional investment does. If your workers feel personally connected to and invested in a project, as well as you as a leader, they are more likely to commit their time and attention to accomplishing goals in a creative way. Creativity is fueled more by intrinsic motivators (fun, fulfilling, interesting, challenging, etc.) than extrinsic ones (bonus, time off, promotion, etc.).
2. Pressure and fear do not inspire innovation
People who are under pressure or who feel frightened tend to look for the simplest — not necessarily the best — solution to a problem. While tight deadlines sometimes can’t be avoided, don’t impose them arbitrarily in the hope that you will force employees into some sort of “inspired breakthrough.” Instead, bring creative ideas to the fore by encouraging workers to think outside the box, something they won’t do if they don’t feel it is safe to offer novel ideas. Leaders should assume the attitude that there are no stupid ideas. Also, remember that downtime, rather than constant concentration, is associated with enhanced creativity and innovation, not to mention productivity.
3. Go easy on fostering competition
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be your best, or in encouraging this in others, where work goals are concerned, pitting employees or teams against each other can be detrimental to team chemistry and may lead to interpersonal conflict. You may get the quickest solution rather than the best one. Creativity can occur in some competitive environments, but if you want everyone pulling on the organizational “oars” together, it’s better to encourage collaboration instead.
4. Practice “falling forward”
Avoid criticism and the blame game, especially when things go wrong. Employees who are put down in a personal way are not going to stick their necks out with new ideas. Instead, focus on mistakes as learning opportunities that can sometimes point to newer and better ways to get work done. Learn from errors, celebrate new ideas, and help employees stay focused on the big picture so they know how they are contributing to both team and organizational success.
Bottom Line: If you seem to lack creative and innovative ideas in your workforce, look in the organizational mirror. Creativity starts with effective leadership and a supportive, emotionally safe workplace culture.