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 Sarah Kauss, CEO of S’well.
When we think about how companies are structured today – from start-ups and tech giants to millennial-run organizations – so much of what employees rely on to maintain happiness and inspiration in the workplace is a fun, flexible culture. A business that involves creating products, services, ideas (or anything for that matter) must have more than this though. It must have a culture that cultivates creativity.
To do this, it takes time, an open-minded outlook, and new approaches to team engagement to truly foster courageous and creative thinking in the workplace. Maybe your team feels stale, and tired ideas are floating around the office and coming your way (or from you, for that matter). If that’s the case, here are a few ways to boost creativity in the office.
The more ideas the better, may be your approach. But if your company and team are feeling uninspired, even encouraging one new idea a day might be what you need to kick-start some fresh thinking. Determine what is best for your organization and vocalize your desire to generate a more creative environment. Define what creativity is for your team. What are your expectations and ultimate goals ? Then develop guidelines to foster a safe thinking space. You’ll be amazed at how defining your creative goals could result in transforming the inner and outer workings of your company.
While I like to think our NYC office environment offers a nice mixture of fun and focus, nothing beats the streets, people and sounds outside to help provide a new perspective. When the weather is nice, we host creative meetings on our roof deck. But sometimes that’s where the creativity ends — and where we can improve. Employees are and should be encouraged to take walking meetings, scope out a new coffee shop or discover the latest art installation in the park to provide them with the inspiration they need. These experiences can translate to free-flowing conversations back in the office, which help get the juices flowing for everyone.
Working in close quarters with individuals that come from different backgrounds and experiences is one way to nurture a healthy, collaborative environment. How diverse is your team? How often are strangers or friends of the company welcome to interact with the team? Think of ways to encourage more unique experiences in the workplace. Consider not only how diverse your team is from age, cultural background and prior job experience, but also how your teams are structured. Are your coders talking to office assistants? Are your buyers talking to designers? Rethink team structures and interactions to play off of unique personalities, interests, and backgrounds. You may be surprised to see the how quickly conversations evolve to new heights.
There are never enough hours in the day, but that doesn’t mean we restrict the lines of communication between leadership and employees. By having an open door policy and regularly scheduled reach outs, you can give your team the freedom to speak up and say what’s on their mind. This is an important practice if it means having a transparent workplace that encourages honest, candid dialogue. At S’well, at the end of each week we cater in lunch at the office for the full team, but no one is allowed to sit or eat at their desks – the team must sit with other departments to socialize, By encouraging these conversations across the board, I’ve noticed my employees push creative boundaries and aren’t afraid to speak up. We have more inspired conversations where we feed off of each other. This allows us to expand the ideas, as a whole, that we bring to the company and I can guarantee it translates to happier clients and the overall success of our organization.
When good work is acknowledged, it shows engagement and promotes positivity. It takes courage to be creative and share ideas in an open forum. Regardless of whether they are winning ideas or not, find a way to say something positive about what you just heard or experienced. By sharing props, you can encourage that person or team to continue to think differently and to overcome the fear of rejection. You help reiterate to your team that the company is a safe place to share the most out-there thoughts and to keep them coming.