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Here’s What You Need to Be More Creative at Work

March 8, 2016, 1:00 AM UTC
Photograph by Marc Romanelli via Getty Images

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 Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

If you’ve ever been at the helm of a startup, you know that creativity is what keeps you afloat. Those first few years are about solving problem after problem. And problem solving at its core comes down to how creative you can get. When you’re small and scrappy, it’s especially important for everyone to have unique ideas. But your leadership has to foster thinking that is outside-of-the-box, original, and resourceful. Otherwise, you won’t survive.

Once you have a solid team behind you, it’s important to remember that everyone’s creative process is different. In fact, much of knowing how people ‘tick’ is recognizing that each person finds inspiration in their own unique way. For example, some people may be inspired by a trip to the Museum of Modern Art, others will get a spark from a hackathon.

However, creative brains need time to breath and mull things over. As a manager, it’s your job to provide them this time. So if one of your designers needs time to only work on a particular project, give them that freedom. Needless to say, if you want results from creativity, you’re going to need a great deal of patience.

See also: How This Olympic Sport Can Boost Creative Thinking

While freedom is paramount to creativity on an individual level, there also should be some element of structure to your organization. Structure to encourage creativity may sound paradoxical, but it isn’t. Our offices were designed to encourage collaboration. Our ‘breakout’ rooms are outfitted with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards and couches for spontaneous brainstorms. Creativity begets creativity and our space supports that. When it comes to inspiring collaborative ideation, the best you can do structure-wise is open the channels.

But, most importantly, your support of creative thinking must be authentic. You can put up all of the inspirational posters you want (and trust me, I do), but you can’t say you encourage collaboration and open sharing of ideas if you don’t show it. That is something you have to implement from top-down. Lead by example by expressing gratitude for the best ideas and giving positive feedback. We believe in a collaborative vision, because it is true that everyone at PureWow plays a part in creating our product. If an employee has an idea about how to do something, they are free to try it out. Because when everyone’s ideas matter, then everyone is comfortable speaking up. At PureWow, our teams produce the best work when there is a truly open level of communication.