Kathy Collins, CMO at H&R Block
Courtesy of H&R Block
By Kathy Collins
September 10, 2015

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization? is written by Kathy Collins, CMO of H&R Block.

When thinking about the most creative industries, taxes likely aren’t top of mind. In fact, making the career change from the fashion industry to financial services wasn’t easy for me. I was haunted by a single thought: this industry could not possibly have any element of fun, change or creativity in it. However, while wrestling with the decision to make the move, it hit me: every industry, every business, every brand needs innovation and creativity. It’s the spark from which bold ideas are born. In fact, it may be that “unsexy” industries need it the most. And when you’re fortunate to have the power of a great brand, creativity is expected at every level.

At H&R Block, we believe every person has a unique story to tell. We have spent a lot of time understanding our consumers and how to reach them. I encourage our teams to live the lives of our customers for an hour, a day or a week. But it has to start outside of our offices. It’s not something that comes out of a focus group. I challenge our teams to invent ways to think differently and innovate continuously through three guiding principles:

Get out of the office
Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. It can be a very literal exercise of spending time in a specific neighborhood or destination. Consume a form of media you don’t normally watch or read. Eat in a restaurant you would typically overlook. You may surprise yourself with what you can learn.

See also: How your boss is killing your creativity at work

Move fast
Today, consumers have endless options. And we don’t always have the luxury of spending weeks and/or months on multiple rounds of research and creative iterations of ideas. Consumers move quickly and we need to move just as quickly right beside them. Find a method that is fluid, and keep moving.

Look to different industries
We can learn (and transfer that knowledge) from great brands and businesses, and find ways to create innovative solutions for our business and industry. Whether it’s walking the aisles of big box retailers or attending other industries’ conferences — we need to explore how others are doing and seek ways to learn from and apply what makes sense for ours.

At its core, creativity is about exploring bold ideas. To foster an environment where colleagues feel they have the permission to be bold means that we, as managers and leaders, need to be bold ourselves.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?

Why creativity is absolutely crucial in the workplace by Barbara Dyer, president and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation.

The one thing that’s blocking your creativity by Kerry Healey, president of Babson College.

How to reward good (and bad) ideas at work by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

4 ways to stop worrying and embrace creative risks by Laura Pincus Hartman, professor of business ethics at Boston University.

Why you absolutely need creative employees by Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.

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