“Stagnation. Boredom. A lack of focus on growth, progress, and team development.” Sound familiar? Does it look as though your workers need a new way to “think outside the box?” If your company is stuck in a rut, then maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit—and what better way to get things rolling than by fostering some new ideas and promoting creativity in the workplace?
SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Thomas Helfrich, Expert in intelligent automation and Artificial Intelligence Innovation systems – “Top 7 Methods For Fostering Innovation And Creativity”
We live in a fast-paced, globalized world, and transformation is accelerating. Businesses need to be innovative and creative to stay ahead of the competition. Innovation involves taking an idea and turning it into a product or service that creates value, while creativity is the process of generating new ideas — innovation’s building blocks.
However, fostering innovation and creativity within an organization is not just a piece of cake; it is easier said than done.
The question is: how can you foster innovation and creativity in your workplace?
Here are seven proven methods to help you do just that!
Practice Divergent Thinking
This type of thinking is responsible for some of humanity’s greatest inventions and some of history’s greatest moments. Divergent thinking is the act of creating or developing new ideas or solutions in multiple directions. It means taking a single idea and coming up with many different possibilities for that idea. Use brainstorming and other techniques to encourage divergent thinking during work sessions, staff meetings, and when you’re looking for fresh ideas on particular projects.
Also, endeavor to encourage curiosity and exploration. Innovation relies on knowledge, so your employees need to be curious about their field and open-minded about exploring new areas of thought related to their work.
A Harvard Business Review (HBR) research revealed that diversity-oriented companies were 70% more likely to capture a new market. This is because having different kinds of individuals on the team increases the chance that a workforce member has traits in common with the end-user; therefore, the entire team better understands that user.
Provoke Diverse Perspectives. Creativity and innovation happen when people from different backgrounds collaborate and share novel ideas and concepts. Collaboration helps produce new ideas and perspectives, which is essential for innovation. Mix things up so that different talents can work on a single idea or concept.
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey analyzed the innovative potential of 1,700 American firms. The research revealed that heterogeneous firms produced 45% of their revenue from innovation. In contrast, companies with below-average diversity yielded only 26%. So, you have to be intentional about diversifying your team.
Adopt New Technologies
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are emerging technologies that you can leverage to foster innovation and creativity in the workplace. AI systems are designed to learn from new data, adapt to changes, recognize patterns, and make decisions without human intervention. It’s critical to invest in tools that enable automation, help with customer relationship management like chatbots, track marketing campaigns, and enhance seamless communication or collaboration.
Create a Stimulating Physical Environment
Being creative is daunting. And sometimes, it doesn’t come naturally. Business managers may need to combine some elements to provide physical and psychological comfort to their employees. Such relaxed states are usually associated with peak creativity levels.
When thinking about how to improve your work environment to encourage creativity, consider the following elements:
A 2012 research revealed that people in moderately noisy environments performed better at creative tasks than those in quiet or rowdy surroundings. To optimize acoustic comfort in your workplace, consider introducing sound-masking products like Soft B.
Colors can foster productivity and innovation in the workplace by encouraging positive emotions in employees. Each color has a unique significance, so you must consider them carefully before applying them in your office space. For example, red paint can trigger employees’ agility by depicting a call to action, while restful green and calming blue can improve efficiency and focus. On the other hand, colors like bland grey, beige, and white are often associated with increased sadness and depression.
In a CareerBuilder survey involving 4,285 full-time workers, 22 percent claimed it was harder to concentrate once the temperature was above the normal range. Another study established that the optimum temperature for productive work is between 69.8 and 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 22 degrees Celsius).
Lighting is another element you should apply in moderation to foster creativity at work. When the light is too dim or too bright, it can strain the eyes and cause headaches. Direct sunlight, though, is the best light source you can get. You’ll have plenty of it if your office has expansive windows.
Foster Trust Within Your Team
Foster trust and give everyone a voice. Create safe spaces for failure.
Innovation can never happen without trust. Trust is what creates the space for risk-taking and creativity. When we don’t trust someone, we tend to hold back our ideas because we don’t feel safe. Employees should feel that their ideas matter to the organization, regardless of their position or title. When employees feel that their ideas and suggestions are not valued, it can create an environment where they are less likely to put forth their best effort or come forward with new ideas. Also, give positive feedback and specify what performance you’re commending. On the flip side, if an employee hasn’t done well, criticize their actions constructively and offer actionable steps for improvement.
Reward Creative Employees
While cash prizes entice most employees, others find recognition personally motivating. Whichever the worker’s preference, always make sure they get something extra for remarkable achievements. Implementing this practice in the workplace fosters a growth mindset and fuels a more innovative culture. Employee incentives could be in the form of paid time off, cash and travel perks, promotions, or even public shout-outs for good work.
Balance Independence and Collaboration
In the work environment, it’s common for people to feel isolated and stressed out, while others complain about conflicts or distractions from working with team members. Such imbalanced situations can take a toll on the firm’s overall productivity. Balanced collaboration provides a space for people to share ideas and brainstorm solutions to problems. This also applies to working with other departments in your organization. When two or more departments collaborate on a project, they bring different perspectives and experiences to the table and can help create better solutions.
These seven methods outlined above will help you take innovation and productivity to another level. But bear in mind that the changes you desire take time to manifest. And these methods would be harder to implement in reality. Nevertheless, be persistent and take it one step after the other.