Elaine Leavenworth, SVP and CMO at Abbott
By Elaine Leavenworth
December 6, 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 Elaine Leavenworth, SVP and CMO at Abbott.

Every company is, by definition, the result of a creative impulse and grows only through ongoing imagination and invention. Yet keeping that creative spark burning is a challenge. Our company, Abbott, is in its 128th year. Here are some practices that have helped spur our creativity over the past century:

Dream big
Inspire employees with goals that matter. Ensuring that people’s work is important and noble will give a sense of mission and can transform the way people approach their jobs.

Be real
People don’t want to have to behave artificially or conform to constricting norms. Create a transparent environment and treat your colleagues with respect. If you give everyone permission to be themselves their creativity will naturally be released and you’ll get their best work – a mutual benefit for all involved.

Broaden the view
Build multi-disciplinary, global teams. The diversity of styles and perspectives can help generate new thinking.

See also: Here’s why so many companies struggle with innovation

Make it fun
Laughter loosens people up and can generate creative thinking. When you’re comfortable laughing with someone, you’re more likely to be yourself and share ideas. For instance, we’ve brought in the legendary comedy troupe “The Second City” to help us think and behave differently together.

Get out of the office
It’s important to leave the same old meeting room. If it’s not practical to do this frequently, save it for when you really need the best from your team. A field trip to a new environment can help people make new connections and inspire ideas.

Get out of the chair
Get up, walk around, and talk with colleagues. Any range of conversations – from what your colleague watched on TV last night to your weekend plans – could provide the inspiration you’re looking for.

Read and share
Read broadly. Soak up all you can. And spread the good ideas you come across.

Stop “inside-only” thinking
Talk and work with people — lots of people — outside your team. From specific customers to peers and competitors, be sure to cultivate a wide worldview.

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

Why taking a vacation is good for productivity by Debbie Messemer, managing partner at KPMG San Francisco.

Proof that the greatest ideas come from junior employees by Sophie Kelly, CEO of The Barbarian Group.

The real reason your ideas aren’t going anywhere by Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.

How your boss is killing your creativity at work by Jeff Diana, chief people officer at Atlassian.

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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