Top Tips for Bringing Creativity into the Workplace

By Marilyn Barefoot

June 3 2016 - Many of us have heard people talk about the importance of creativity in the workplace. In fact, it is often referred to as the currency of the new millennium. For those in the HR world, I believe that creativity is no longer simply a nice-to-have in the workplace. It's a necessity.

But where do these elusive creative ideas come from - and how do you get them? Do you go out and hire creative people who infuse an atmosphere of innovation into the company? Or, is there some sort of magic potion we can all drink to become creative? You can't force creativity but here are a couple of easy things you can do to begin to establish a creative culture in your organization:

  1. Set up a couple of special places/spaces that are completely different from any other meeting spaces in your office. Fill them with comfortable colourful furniture. Try and choose spaces that have natural light. Play music in the room through an iPod on a docking station. Feature the newest crazy, interesting, off-the-wall magazines. Have tons of paper in the room ... large 3M Post-It pads on easels are best. Include Mr. Sketch markers, toys, crayons, and adult colouring books. Adults need a space where they can 'play' in order for creativity to flow freely. It has been scientifically proven that play relieves stress, boosts creativity, improves brain function, and improves our relationships with other people by fostering trust. Encourage people to host meetings in these new spaces ... and ask for feedback. In no time I am sure you will be transforming most of your meeting spaces! In a recent creative session at Nestlé Canada, several teams came up with the idea of launching a creative room called 'The Nest'. Since the corporate logo for Nestlé is a nest, this concept was perfect. The teams decided it would be a place where creativity, innovation, and new ideas would be nurtured and hatched! Seating would be large pale blue beanbag chairs that looked like eggs. Ideas and themes would be written on branches as possible solutions to a problem statement.
  2. Get rid of PowerPoint slides for 6 weeks. Let people know that they can present any way they feel comfortable ... but they cannot use PowerPoint. You will be amazed at how creative and engaged everyone is when the presenter is not dimming the lights and reading from a screen!
  3. Ask people to talk more and e-mail less. If the stakeholders are physically present in the office, get them together for a few minutes to have a discussion rather than sending an e-mail. If they are not physically present in the office, collaborate with them via Skype or a video conference call. People need human contact. Face-to-face discussions will accomplish 100% more than sending a long chain of e-mails.
  4. Reward Creativity! If you want to get employees to think 'out of the box', you need to motivate them with some form of reward. And, you have to listen. If you ask for creative suggestions, show people you are serious by doing something with their suggestions ... or they will quickly stop offering them. Developing a creative culture takes time, but it starts with being more open-minded and less judgmental. Remember, R.O.I. can and should also stand for Reward On Innovation.
  5. Employees need to be trusted to self-manage. Employees that are micro-managed don't have the ability to think 'outside of the box'. They are so busy doing exactly what they are told to do, that there is no room for creative problem solving.
  6. Reward failure and acknowledge mistakes. They are signs of progress. When mistakes happen, ask questions: What do we need to do to fix it? 2What did we learn? What will we do differently next time so that this doesn't happen again?
  7. Invite fresh faces to meetings and brainstorming sessions. Provide opportunities for employees who do not normally interact with one another to meet. Invite people from other departments or areas to your meetings and brainstorming sessions. Ask for their opinions and ideas. A story that springs to mind is an all staff offsite meeting with Burger King. Everyone in the company was invited to participate in the brainstorming session. Some of the most creative and interesting ideas for the future of the business came from the guy in charge of their underground parking at the head office!

Creativity is like oxygen. It energizes. It stimulates. It nourishes. Any organization is like the human body - if you only breathe the air you just exhaled, you'll perish.

Marilyn Barefoot

About Marilyn Barefoot, Founder of Barefoot Brainstorming

Marilyn Barefoot is the founder of Barefoot Brainstorming, a high-energy, hands-on brainstorming and strategy-building service that the biggest brands in Canada depend on to generate big ideas. A three-time nominee for the Rotman Canadian Woman of the Year Awards, Marilyn is a sought-after speaker and business expert whose brand building and idea construction methods lead to powerful results for companies large and small.