The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization? is written by Kirsten Helvey, COO for Cornerstone OnDemand.
Creativity can be a difficult concept to pin down, but it is a key component of any successful company. Though not everyone may have the artist’s eye for creativity, I believe that creativity as applied to business is something that every person has the potential to develop. In business, I see creativity as being able to view the same problem from many lenses and make connections between seemingly unconnected things. It’s about cultivating new experiences to develop perspective. As a business leader, it is your responsibility to create an environment that encourages and fosters creativity. I believe this can be achieved by embracing these three elements:
Promote positive work-life balance
Give your employees the time and space it takes to tap into their imaginations and be creative. I know for myself and for many of my colleagues, that our best ideas come to us when we least expect them, and often when we are far away from the office. If employees are being burned out at work, there is little room for them to be thinking about the next big breakthrough idea. This is why we hold our annual manager’s meeting far away from the office in places like Aspen. We are all avid skiers, and mixing outdoor activities with brainstorming sessions has taken us down paths that we would have never reached if we were sitting in a boardroom or conference room.
Invest in continuous learning
Fostering a culture of learning goes hand-in-hand with encouraging creativity in an organization. At Cornerstone, we have implemented “Development Days” for our employees. Every quarter, in each of our offices around the world, we take one day away from our desks to invest in our commitment to lifelong learning and to learn from one another. The topics can range from agile project management and understanding quality assurance to salsa dancing, crafting, mixology, wine tasting and more. Through this, employees are encouraged to share their passions, interact with colleagues they may not work with on a day-to-day basis, and form those unseen connections that are vital to a creative organization.
Accept and reward failure
With any creative idea, there is always an element of risk attached to it. If you are charting unknown territory, there’s going to be a chance you may miss the mark and sink the ship. Our organization has worked hard to develop a culture where if you aren’t occasionally failing, then you aren’t succeeding. We believe in constant experimentation and iteration. From our internal Hackathons where employees get to dream big and build fast, to our Innovation Fund and Accelerator programs where we work directly with entrepreneurs to help them develop their startups in ways that they would never have thought possible, we are constantly challenging our employees to get over the fear of failure and stretch themselves past the realm of comfort and into the realm of bold and creative.