Ten Top Tips : Bringing Creativity Into Your Workplace

How do you get your ideas? Here’s how Einstein answered that question: “I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
At work we excel at critical and analytical thinking to generate information, but only through creativity and the imagination can we develop the skills to deal with it.
So how do we move from being manoeuvred by information to creatively managing it?
Einstein gave us clue – he identified himself as an artist and scientist. To solve problems on any scale we must act like artists by giving possibility to our imagination and cultivating curiosity. Here are 10 ways to encourage creativity in your workplace.

1 Allow time to make connections Allocate clear space for thinking and acting creatively. We do this in small ways all the time, but the big challenges need specific time and attention. Brain waves function differently when you are imagining, so it’s difficult to jump instantly from analysing the budget to brainstorming new idea. Dedicate specific time for creativity and recognise the significant shift you make from analytical to imaginative work.

2 Understand the role When working creatively you are trying to generate and match as many possibilities as you can. This means letting the ideas flow without censorship. Do the evaluation later. Understanding this is fundamental to piling up the possibilities. Whether you are brainstorming by yourself or in group, there are three prerequisites: no rules; suspend judgement; play and experiment.

3 Encourage free and open communication Building trust in ourselves and others will increase possibilities. Freedom to express ideas doesn’t mean we have to adopt them – that comes later. But out in the open the ideas can rub shoulders with each other. Censorship of any kind has little to offer. When listening, don’t judge, encourage – until the possibilities stop flowing. Engaging with others in this way will help build the trust needed to collaborate and co-create.

4 Accept diversity and ambiguity Much of business is driven by consistency and uniformity, yet the differences found in diversity and the possibilities of ambiguity help to stimulate change. By encouraging and understanding different people’s viewpoints you will discover new perspectives. Let some challenges sit awhile before making decisions and you may well find better solutions. Mostly we have desire to find answers and finalise things. But once you reach this point the creative opportunities stop.

5 Engage in serious play Play is often seen as the opposite of work, but it is hallmark of serious creative work. We are not talking about passing on jokes but about the spontaneous fun created during work-related activities. Good humour lowers stress, allows the mind to function better and helps to encourage more open atmosphere.

6 Capture ideas Creativity is complex process and ideas can strike at any time. As most people’s short-term memory is just about 10 seconds, always be sure you have notepad or some means of capturing ideas when they appear. If you are brainstorming in group take turns at the whiteboard to record ideas while the others focus on the creative thinking. Consider capturing with drawing or diagram, not just written list. Try placing permanent whiteboard somewhere where ideas can be constantly captured, shared and developed.

7 Encourage curiosity Asking questions drives creativity. Good questions can uncover potential for further exploration and are the result of an inquiring mind. Often questioning is discouraged – it can be connected with not understanding, doubting, criticising, or just being plain nosey. But questions allow us to test for new possibilities and outcomes. Be open to encouraging your own and others’ curiosity.

8 Reward effort Creativity is not efficient – mistakes are an inevitable part of the process. Creativity relies heavily on experimentation and going down some blind alleys. Don’t let this stop you trying new things, just keep the risks within comfort. Allowing mistakes and encouraging the desire to try is essential, so recognise the effort and celebrate the successes – the rest is part of the process.

9 Special space Creative processes are fundamentally affected by space and time. Get tuned into the places and times where you get ideas. Possibly you recognise and develop the morning coffee routine as an important time, or the evening jog. Within the workplace, provide special space by treating an area such as corner of the lunchroom or spare office as studio. Decorate it with pictures and articles of interest. Have whiteboard to doodle on and comfortable chair and CD player. This space should stimulate employees to “be outside of the box” by encouraging new possibilities and connections.

10 Engage in artistic pursuits Artistic processes activate many areas of the brain simultaneously. Encourage employees to try artistic pursuits that interest them. They may not directly bring the work results you are looking for but they will establish and strengthen the systems and processes that produce them. Some activities done as group, such as painting and theatre, can be powerful ways of developing communication and collaboration with workmates.

David Kayrouz has background in business and art and facilitates art-based workshops for businesses. www.creativepathways.co.nz

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