A one-size-fits-all approach typically does not work when it comes to stimulating staff creativity. Some may believe that a freewheeling, risk-taking, no-rules approach is best for inspiring great ideas. Others could argue that some parameters and protocols are necessary to keep ideas on track. Let’s take a look at the different approaches to stimulating creativity.
- Prior to thinking of creative ideas or business solutions, research in some or all of the following areas – customers’ mindset, competitors’ products and messaging, media coverage in your industry, up-and-coming trends, etc. – is crucial. Encourage employees to look for market gaps (for example, predicting customer needs; recognizing opportunities stemming from societal changes; or looking for new uses for tried-and-true products) to ground the process.
- To come up with creative solutions to specific business problems, you might want to present the team with a defined challenge that strikes a balance between being too general and too specific. In other words, you want to keep the brainstorming process on track without spoon feeding a solution.
- Creativity may ebb and flow for entrepreneurs and employees alike. Sometimes you may have great ideas throughout the course of a day; other times, you may struggle to find ideas or solutions to problems. When you or your staff are struggling to find the big “ah ha” moment, you may need to distract yourself momentarily by focusing on more mundane tasks, such as paperwork.
- Asking employees to conceive innovative ideas under pressure can squash the creative impulse. By contrast, giving people time to think can be good for the process. To help get creative juices flowing, some companies allow employees free time, ranging from walks outside, to paid sabbaticals.
- If you really want to systematize your creativity, you can hire mind-mapping or game storming consultants to run detailed training programs with staff. Gamestorming sessions can run from a few hours to several days and typically involve visual thinking games and techniques designed to put the focus on the solution, not on individuals.
Keep in mind, if you encourage creative thinking among your staff, you do have to put some of their ideas into practice. There is no better way to crush the creative spirit than to make employees feel as if their efforts are all in vain. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what works best for your business. Many companies choose to take a blended approach to creativity, including allowing employees to work with different colleagues for a few days or setting up cross-disciplinary teams. This may be just enough freedom to stimulate innovation, while still keeping employees focused on creative solutions to real business problems. How do you encourage creativity among your staff? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.
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