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 Pascale Witz, executive vice president of Global Divisions at Sanofi.
Encouraging creativity in the workplace is an important challenge for many companies today. In the past, leaders were expected to rationalize, drive, and restructure their businesses to be successful. But now, they are expected to innovate, and promote engagement within their teams. Some people may consider “being creative” as an artistic thing, but I disagree. I think that we can all be creative—in my mind, “creativity” is just another word for entrepreneurship, innovation, or thinking out of the box.
Everyone has ideas of how to grow and improve business, but not everyone is given a chance to express their creativity, or may be too shy to share. We’re all busy with our day-to-day tasks, so it can be difficult to find time and space to think creatively. In fact, more and more companies are dedicating time and space to help further stimulate the minds of their employees. Throughout my career, I’ve always encouraged and challenged my team to express their creativity on a daily basis, by doing the following:
Creativity isn’t an individual pursuit—you have to give your team the opportunity to brainstorm, exchange ideas, and challenge each other. For example, trust your colleagues with a new project. Let them know that they have the freedom to figure out things on their own. Giving your employees the opportunity to express their creativity and defend their opinions will empower them and create business value.
Get a second opinion
When you’re in the weeds of a project, it can be hard to take a broader, objective view of your work. So I always try to ask someone whose opinion I respect, for an alternative perspective. A fresh outlook can result in new ideas and help the project to move forward.
Say ‘thank you’
A simple “thank you” or “congratulations” is a huge driver of creativity. When people feel that their initiatives are recognized, they are encouraged to bring forward even more proposals.
Make creativity a state of mind
These are very simple suggestions, but they can trigger a capacity for creativity that already exists in each of us. So the real question is: do you want to be creative? Or should I say: are you ready to surpass yourself, step out of your routine and progress? In the workplace, creativity – or entrepreneurship – is a state of mind.
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 byBarbara 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.