Not too long ago we wrote a blog on corporate culture and how to produce it for increased business success. The main takeaway identified was that having a strong culture within an organization merely means the employee's values align with those of the organization.
Research has shown that having a strong culture is very loosely related to business success. Rather, it’s making sure that the strong culture aligns with the external environment that you’re currently working in and that your culture is one that is adaptive - these factors guarantee business success.
An adaptive culture is an internal environment that is operating under the premise that change is bound to happen. When you believe this, your operations become adaptive because change is expected – allowing for smooth, routine and seamless transitions and solutions when things hit the fan.
Having an adaptive culture is extremely important for growth and innovation because it is a vital component of the corporate mandate. We all want it – but it’s hard to create. Culture starts from the actions and mandates of the leaders in the organization e.g. the founders and executives. It’s easy to preach having an adaptive culture, and much harder to identify if there is room for improvement. One of the first ways to promote an adaptive culture is to encourage creativity to blossom within your business from the managers and the staff. The people who will bring the best ideas forward will be the people who work for your company because they know the ins and outs of how your business is run.
Creative people have the ability to identify new ways to carry out duties, to solve problems, to increase productivity and to meet challenges. Creative staff will bring fresh perspectives to their work which can not only help your overall company be more productive but increase the value of your company because of your human capital.
There are two ways that you can increase creativity in your workplace: hiring for creative minds and fostering creativity in the workplace.
Hiring for Creative Minds
If your job search you’ve most likely have seen that some job descriptions state that creative thinking is required or that specific position. You can screen out those who are not comfortable with using creativity on a day to day basis with just adding this requirement or a similar requirement to your job postings. Don’t think you need to? Opportunities for creative thought in the workplace are not just for the obvious artistic position but for technical positions as well such as a software developer or an analyst. Beyond just listing the obvious, other elements you can add to your job description that relate to the theme of creativity are:
· Problem solving
Surprisingly, there are specific characteristics of creative people identified from studying organizational behaviour. Those who are more creative tend to have a higher openness to experience personality. They have a lower need for affiliation motivation, or otherwise can work independently without the need to affiliate as a motivation, and they have higher self-direction and stimulation values. During your interview process be sure to pay attention to these characteristics by either having questions that specifically encourage responses that would showcase these traits. Ironically, a high level of expertise or experiences can tend to get in the way of creativity because people are more fixed in their ways if they have been doing something for a long time. Look for personalities that are still open to new ideas, and less proud in their ways.
Keep in mind that highly intelligent people can still be uncreative. Which means that intelligence doesn’t always equal creativity. When you are looking at hiring a person it isn’t the question of whether a person “can be creative," it is rather “will they be creative." Great indicators are if the person is motivated towards the task on their own and are encouraged by seeking others for creative input.
Finally, creativity can be tricky because if you have a team all made up of independent, creative people, you have a higher change of team conflict.
Conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it drives people to think outside of the box. If everyone worked harmoniously, there would be no need to challenge the status quo.
Teams that produce creative outcomes will have higher levels of conflict than traditional teams.
Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Company
If you want to have a competitive advantage over the other businesses in your industry, you have to create a culture that allows staff to bring new innovative ideas forward. Creative thinking is essential to prevent stagnation and to be at the forefront of your industry. But it is naïve to think that pushing for creativity stops at hiring. Even if you verbally encourage creativity within your staff and hire for creative people, there will be a point where ideas stop flowing within stimulation. Here are a couple ways on how you can foster and stimulate creativity in your company.
1) Encourage experimentation
You can use a few techniques to aid this process. Brainstorming is an oldie but a goodie. Although mainly used for specific work projects or within meetings, brainstorming can be a great technique to use to increase participation from that may not be directly involved with the problem at hand. Brainstorming allows people to contribute ideas on a topic without regard to how practically it may be. However, if done traditionally, brainstorming can have its flaws, for example, people tend to forget what they are thinking about as they listen to other people’s ideas. Or, if they are focused on their own idea, they may not be listening to others who are currently speaking – missing out on important contributions and feedback. A better way of brainstorming is to contribute ideas via written form anonymously to avoid these problems.
Another technique to encourage experimentation is through role-playing. Ask your staff what they would do if they were in another role. Different perspectives can lead to helpful ideas. This
2) Tolerate mistakes
People are less inclined to share ideas if they’ve been reprimanded whether or not the reprimand is justified. Try to create processes that tolerate mistakes and encourage learning. Punishing reduces the amount of openness displayed by your staff.
3) Create intrinsically motivating work
Task repetition leads to task boredom and nothing turns off the tap of creativity than boredom. During your job design make sure that the work is motivating, has significant and is clear on why it is important in the overall company picture. Secondly, for staff to be creative, they must also have autonomy within their work. Finally, there needs to be a good level of feedback to both encourage and recognize the creativity that is going on. Positive feedback is great, but if negative feedback needs to be delivered, make sure that it is constructive.