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Monday, April 26, 2010

Fostering Creativity and Innovation

Would your organization benefit from employees who are creative and who are constantly in pursuit the most innovative ways of doing things? Would it not be great if employees keep coming up with ideas your company can use? Wouldn't it be great if they can make things better, faster and at a lower cost? Wouldn't it be great if your people keep on coming up with ways to sell more and generate more profit? What if there is a way to make all these happen? Wouldn't be a worthy investment of time, money and effort? Wouldn't it be great? :)

I believe that people are naturally creative. Somewhere along the way, however, a lot of us stopped believing that we are. It also does not help that we create conventions and stereotypes that stifle creativity and scare people away from taking risk. I believe that with some reprogramming, managers can make their people believe again that they are indeed creative and are capable of making innovations wherever they are in the organization. I have a number of things in mind that I think we (Yes, including myself) as managers ought to start doing in order to create  work environments that will help people use their creativity to address our business' needs. Here are my suggestions:

Increase Your Employees' Knowledge

This is what Wikipedia says about creativity:

"Creativity is a mental process involving the discovery of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the existing ideas or concepts, fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight."

I believe that in terms of frequency,  creativity  is more of "new associations" rather than "discovery of new ideas." Think about it, there is hardly any new idea that is not inspired or triggered by something else. Think about your cellphone, for example. It probably has, calculator, camera, data storage and other thingamajigs that don't use to go together but now do. This means that old knowledge or ideas, the more you have in store, the more chances of you becoming more creative. So, one way of helping people become more creative is by exposing them to more knowledge. Train them in various skills, build a mini library in your office, make information accessible and share best practices. These should surely help those creative juices to start dripping until they flow more consistently. One more thing, help them believe that they are more creative than they think. Let me know if you need help in this department. I may have something that I can offer you (wink, wink)

Create an Environment that Inspires Creativity

How is your office setup? Is it setup so that people can find it easy to exchange ideas, compare notes, brainstorm or argue about how to do things better? I don't agree that the creative process have to be a lonely one. As they say more heads are better than one. But that's just me. Some people think they need to be alone in order to be creative. I guess if we want people to be more creative, we should give them options to create alone or with other people. Surrounding people with things that inspire creativity may also help. In one company, that I used to work with. Employees who are expected to come up with creative ideas are allowed to take a step back from their work, play some games and then go back to their work. In another company, the boss keeps on rearranging the furniture. She said that it helps bring new perspective. I don't know if it's true but if she says that it works for her and her team, who are we to argue? Whatever works, right? Here's one more thing, the one person that makes the most difference in the environment is the boss. I think the boss should demonstrate openness to ideas, make it a practice to consult the employees and or encourage them to do the same with him/her and others. If the boss puts down people's ideas so hard that it discourages them to come forward with more, then that the biggest creativity "stifler" of them all. None of the other things we do to encourage creativity will matter if they are scared of the boss.

Challenge Them to be Creative

Business Process Re-engineering, Six Sigma, Quality Improvement Teams, Suggestion Boxes, Best Suggestion Recognitions, rewarding breakthrough ideas that save the company money and earn more profit, these are just some of the ways to challenge people to be more creative. Institutionalize the question "how do we make these things better?". Encourage people to ask "what-if" questions. I believe that if we do this, we are institutionalizing creativity and innovation.

Build Teamwork
Teamwork to me is different from group-think or herd mentality. Real teamwork is the harnessing of people's  diverse ideas, abilities and commitment so that they can focus on doing whatever is worth doing to achieve a common goal. Combine teamwork with all the things I mentioned above and I believe that people will become more creative and more committed towards innovation.

If you like what you read here and want to find out how I can be of help, please just shoot me an email at ecebreo@exeqserve.com

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