One of my friends was clearing the shelves of her office bookcase to make room for some new purchases. She generously put duplicate copies of books and others that she had already read in a box and posted a sign that they were “free for the taking.” That, of course, was too good an opportunity to pass up and as I flipped through the titles, a book on creativity caught my eye. Reading the foreword to the book, the premise put forth was that when you are new to a field you approach it without preconceived notions and that ideas spring forth without censure. In that introduction, Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Boorstin is quoted as saying the amateur is not afraid to do something for the first time and goes on to say that” it is the curious, excited, slightly reckless passion (of the amateur) that we need to nurture in our professional lives, especially if we aspire to creativity in the work we do.”
“People have to love the process. No amount of rewards or punishments can spur creativity in people who lack sufficient passion, self-confidence and tenacity,” said Kay Bunch, instructor in the department of managerial sciences at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. “Sometimes we don’t really want people to be creative because creativity takes time and people may come up with ideas that challenge the status quo. Part of the problem is making sure we understand what creativity is from the organization’s standpoint and identifying people who have the characteristics to be creative.” She continues that while many organizations might focus on financial rewards as motivators, the best kind of inspiration is encouragement from a supervisor or an inherent love for the work.
How do you promote creativity in the workplace? Whether you are an employee or an employer, encouraging people to think creatively and come up with new ideas is an excellent way to stimulate imaginations and encourage contributions. However, if you’ve been feeling uninspired recently, never fear. A recent poll of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business found that 73% believe creativity can be learned, just like any other skill, with many citing the importance of being open to new experiences and unfamiliar ways of thinking.
Here are some suggestions for promoting creativity:
- Foster a workplace where creativity is valued. Create a collaborative environment that encourages an exchange of ideas, active problem-solving and fresh viewpoints
- Give employees the tools and techniques to come up with new concepts. You may use whiteboards, suggestion boxes, mind maps, and even post-it notes
- Encourage questions that start with “what if”
- Find a way to recognize, reward and celebrate great ideas
Competition is also a powerful motivator and can inspire office creativity. Challenges often elicit novel solutions to difficult situations or knotty problems and the idea of winning a competition can be a powerful incentive. Julie Neidlinger, a web contributor and blogger says: Individuals come up with ideas. Teams refine them. Keeping creativity alive and growing means using both the individual and the team, and not one over the other. It means knowing how they work together best, and when to bring people together or split them apart for new ideas.
Find your spark. Inspire yourself and others. To paraphrase Steven Covey: As we age we should not live from our memories. To be successful we must live from our imagination.