The One Question Every Boss Should Ask To Inspire Employees

Andy Warhol In New York, United States In 1966 -
American pop artist Andy Warhol (right) with his associate Gerard Malanga and members of the Velvet Underground, New York City, circa 1966. Left to right: John Cale, Gerard Malanga, Nico (1938 - 1988) and Andy Warhol (1928 - 1987).
Photograph by Herve GLOAGUEN Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The Leadership Insiders 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 Tal Schwartz, CEO of Clicktale.

Creative thinking is the bread and butter of any organization. If you can’t get your employees to think outside the box, you’re going to constantly find yourself trailing your competitors in innovation, a key factor to staying ahead of the game and growing your company’s business.

But what do you do when your bread and butter turns stale? To me, the answer is simple.

In place of the old-fashioned executive hierarchy, our executive team avoids the traditional hierarchy of executive – mid-level – low-level employees. Instead, everyone’s doors are open and even the most out-there ideas are considered. This model is a staple of modern psychology, where Abraham Maslow pointed out that humans can only achieve higher-level thinking (ideas like love, esteem and self-actualization) when their lower-level needs (safety, food, physiological well-being) are met. If you translate this to the business world, the results are abundantly clear: If your employees aren’t happy, if they don’t feel cared for and you are so busy making sure they know who’s boss that you forget to ask them for their unique input, you’re likely stifling their creativity in its tracks.

I make a point to routinely ask my employees what they think needs to change within the company. As a result of a recent company-improvement initiative led by the employees, we’re taking active steps to get employees’ creative juices going. This year, Clicktale, whereI’m CEO, will host its first hackathon: a 24-hour all-hands-on-deck brainstorming session where employees, working in pairs or teams will dream up ways to improve our company and then present their products for a vote. Other companies have similar initiatives. The exercise provides not only a break from the daily grind and encourages creativity, but it also grants employees the freedom to tackle difficult problems, and gives them the credit they deserve for developing successful solutions.

So remember to make brainstorming sessions fun, keep employees comfortable, and most importantly, empower your employees to shoulder the mantle of creativity themselves.

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