Creativity is the lifeblood of innovation and problem-solving.
From overcoming business challenges to gaining an edge in the market, organizations are starting to realize the benefits of harnessing creativity in the workspace.
Most CEOs ranked creativity as the number one factor for organizational success.
WEF’s global executive survey echoed the same opinion — creative thinking tops the list in the most sought-after employee skills in the future.
Creativity by definition is a skill that assists with generating new ideas or solutions through imagination instead of relying on logic.
The looming question is, what benefits do businesses gain from embracing creativity?
Why Businesses Should Focus on Improving Creative Thinking
Creative thinking approaches problem-solving differently by prioritizing inventiveness over logical reasoning.
When applied to business situations, the end results can be wonderful—surpassing expectations in some cases.
Think of it this way.
When was the last time you heard of a successful business that had zero creative ideas?
The answer is most likely… none. Businesses simply cannot succeed without a tinge of creative thinking.
Adobe and Forrester’s comprehensive study revealed a staggering 82 percent of companies believe increased creativity leads to more successful business results.
The same study also showed that innovative companies performed better than rivals in multiple business areas, further proving the importance of creative thinking.
How Leading Companies Are Using Creativity to Great Success
Today’s leading companies use the right mix of creativity and innovation to excel in rapidly changing and competitive landscapes.
When we talk about creative thinking, Apple is the first company that comes to mind thanks to its innovative products and more notably, its captivating “Think Different” slogan.
For decades, Apple has led the forefront of innovation while inspiring others to express their own creativity.
It’s no surprise Apple continues to hover the top of BCG’s Most Innovative Companies list for over 10 years, not to mention the multitude of glowing innovation awards along the way.
Apple is not the only company making waves in creative thinking.
Take a look at Starbucks, for instance. The coffee giant inspired the rise of “experiences”-based cafes today with its ingenuity in reimagining coffee shops.
Instead of being just another beverage stop, Starbucks elevated the customer experience by building vibrant spaces and adopting cozy, soothing interior designs to make customers feel like they’re sipping a warm cup of coffee by the fireplace.
Target takes a page out of Starbucks’ book by implementing an interactive “choose your own adventure” themed shopping in their outlets.
Shoppers can choose one of two entrances which leads them through a carefully planned path of products, making shopping more of an experience rather than a chore.
Innovative companies like Target and Starbucks are already reaping the rewards of creative thinking, particularly in increasing revenue and brand loyalty.
The good news?
Your business doesn’t have to be a Starbucks replica to benefit from creativity.
1. Reward And Incentivize Creativity
A good way to encourage creative thinking is to reward innovative ideas.
Businesses show they value creativity when inventiveness is rewarded. This gives employees a reason to express themselves as they feel their ideas actually matter to the business.
There is also something for them to “win” for their efforts if their ideas are feasible enough for the organization.
Of course, not every idea will succeed but realize that success cannot happen without failure.
Your business must be comfortable with accepting failure. This means giving employees the freedom and flexibility they need to play around and experiment with new possibilities.
A notable example of incentivizing innovation is Google’s (not so) secret innovation lab, Google X. The lab offers bonuses to team members who could come up with radical yet achievable ideas to work.
Some of the notable works that have come out of Google X include space elevators, extremely advanced robots, and of course, self-driving cars.
2. Build a Culture That Champions Creative Thinking
A common mistake businesses do is to coerce their employees to “be creative” and expect magical results in return.
Creative thinking will only exist in a work environment that encourages it, not by force.
The working environment must be meticulously planned and nurtured to inspire—and that begins with company leaders.
Managers play a crucial role as they’re responsible for creating an accepting atmosphere where employees are comfortable with taking risky approaches. Again, this is achieved through accepting failure and telling employees it’s OK to screw up.
Another great tip is to involve employees outside of the project team. You’ll be surprised as the regularity of brilliant ideas coming from team members who aren’t directly working with a specific client or project.
Involving diverse groups of employees in discussions can also promote out of the box thinking.
It is a fact that teams with varying backgrounds (e.g. team members who have lived or traveled abroad), experiences, and skills generate the best results for business innovation.
The more diverse a group is, the more likely it is for innovative ideas and creative solutions to arise.
3. Understand Your Team’s Creative Needs
Every team member has their own creative needs.
Just like how employees have their own behavior and working styles, they also find creativity in many different ways—oftentimes in ways you don’t expect.
Some, for example, may prefer to flex their creative muscles in private.
That is not to say that teamwork is a burden to inventiveness; 30 percent of respondents also mentioned that collaborative work is enhanced in private workspaces.
You should also consider giving your team some time outdoors. A 30-minute refresher in the park or a quick smoke break (despite its health concerns) can be the deciding factor in helping employees be more creative in their work.
On the contrary, you may find several of your team members being more productive when they’re bounded by rules.
Some people find themselves more creative when working under strict conditions as they see it as a challenging, but stimulating obstacle to overcome.
Regardless of your approach, the most important objective in encouraging creative thinking is to identify and adapt to your employee’s creative needs.
Doing so will boost your organization’s creativity by tenfold—always a good thing for your business.
4. Be More Flexible With Work Hours
Fully sticking to the nine-to-five schedule could impact your employees’ creativity negatively. There is nothing inherently wrong with the nine-to-five day but its routine structure makes it hard for people to think out of the box.
Try to make work more flexible by cutting down on a day’s work or better yet, adopt a four-day work cycle.
If reducing work hours is not feasible, consider experimenting with remote work which has been proven to improve employee happiness and productivity immensely.
This tip also helps with employee burnout, a rising problem in many organizations today. It’s advisable to give employees some much needed time off to take their mind off work and hit the refresh button.
The most important part of flexible work hours though is to maintain clear expectations.
Your employees can work whenever or wherever they want. But, you need to clarify that completing work on time and coordinating with team members are two things that must be taken seriously.
5. Create an Inspiring Office Space
The design of your office can do a lot to foster creativity. It’s no surprise that leading companies (e.g. Google and the plethora of successful startups today) are spending millions building fun work environments for their employees.
Employees feel more productive and valued in well-designed workspaces, which also explains the science behind the popularity of co-working offices.
The first step to a creative office is by decluttering. Messy desks do little to promote creative thinking as it annoys and demotivates employees.
Establish a tidy workplace and give your employees space to breathe by building more open areas in the office.
This creates a conducive working environment, leading to improved creativity and work productivity.
Don’t forget about the colors. The shades of your office walls also affect how your employees think and operate.
If your office is spacy and tidy but creativity is still lacking, consider experimenting with different color palettes to lighten your employees’ moods.
A think tank, for instance, benefits from light colors like orange or blue—two shades that are widely used to stimulate creative thinking.
Most people work on laptops or tablets today so it’s fine to ditch the one desk, one employee rule in your workspace. Co-working practices like hot-desking or open offices can do wonders to employee creativity, as proven in this study by HBR.
Long tables, standing and movables desks, sofas, sleeping pods—these are all office design ideas you can take from co-working spaces to inspire creative thinking even in the most restless of employees.
6. Be Creative With Your Business Assets
While many businesses race to adopt the latest technologies and acquire cutting-edge equipment, it won’t be of much use if you can’t get a good return on your investment.
A creative approach to managing and handling your existing assets can, therefore, be crucial to identify new opportunities without having to spend a lot.
To get you started, you need a good overview of what assets you have, where these assets are, and how they are being used.
Then look for underutilized equipment and pieces that your team members use a lot. Are there some pieces you have no use for that you could sell or rent out to other businesses in your industry?
Alternatively, if more employees need to use the same equipment, you can look into teaming up employees to work together on a particular piece of equipment. This also improves your chances of boosting team collaboration and engagement.
Ultimately, it’s not so much about what you have, but how much ROI your business can squeeze out of it. Creative thinking can save you from overspending, encourage innovative ways of utilizing your assets and create interesting business partnerships.
Promote Creative Thinking With These Handy Tips
Promoting creative thinking in the workplace is beneficial for everyone, including your employees and customers.
By boosting creativity, you create a fun working environment that increases employee engagement in the workplace, leading to happier and more productive teams—all the things you’d want in a high-performing organization.