Creativity, when applied to problem-solving, is a much-valued skill by businesses that want to stay ahead in the race
There’s a widespread and longstanding general perception that creative people lack business sense. Of course, like all sweeping generalisations, this propositionholds no real logic – yet it lingers on through generations. Perhaps this belief originated from the essentially different approaches taken by creative persons and businesspeople in executing their craft. The creative approach is always considered to be devoid of the harsh boundaries of data, more emotion-based and human-centric, and less concerned about financial returns.
While some of it is true, we can no longer ignore the fact that these differences can actually be game changers when applied to problem-solving. Let us not forget that like all business transactions, any creative endeavour is targeted at a specific set of consumers. An art admirer is as much a client to the artist as a buyer of an electronic gadget is to its manufacturer. Thus, although business productivity involves data-oriented, organised, mission-driven, and efficient ways of working, industry leaders are now considering creativity to be an immensely valuable asset that can turn around businesses by increasing efficiency at work. Indeed, the World Economic Forum has accepted that creativity is related to nine out of the ten skills that are supposed to be driving the businesses of the future.
Benefits of the creative element
How can creativity help at the workplace, and why are industry leaders suddenly stressing its importance for businesses to reach the next level? Surprisingly, there are a host of reasons.
- Creativity is the soul of innovation.Innovation depends on unique and novel ways of thinking.Creativity is the mother-bed of original ideas, and when such ideas are tempered with practical utility they can lead to the best innovative solutions.
- Productivity can get a boost with creative approaches – something which routine thinking fails to achieve. By thinking creatively up and reaching out of one’s comfort zone, fresh ideas and perspectives begins to flow. This enables a better view of the bigger picture while solving problems. Employees with a big-picture view can apply new approachesand, therefore, are more productive.
- Empowerment is a direct fallout of passion to one’s work. Participating in the creative process empowers workers, regardless of their department or role.Even in terms of motivation, they score much higher than non-creative people as they can passionately relate to the course of action they are undertaking – make a tangible, visible difference in their workplace.
- Creative people enjoy being “in the zone” of their creative process. This means, they will not think in terms of “success and failure” in what they do. That also implies, these people are not in constant fear of failure that can curb the flow of fresh ideas.Execute any work without that fear means they can take more positive and bold decisions than non-creative workers.
- Creativity fosters adaptability. In the current turbulent times, business involves constant change management – as disruptions have become a part of process. A creativemindset usually never rejects an idea merely because it is new or disruptive. This means strategy-makers with a creative bend of mind will adapt more quickly to disruptions by working a way out of it through creative solutions.
- To ensure that leaders do not stagnate, it is necessary to foster an environment of creative thinking. Creativity is a complex process that does not move in a unilateral or unidirectional way. It intuitively takes into consideration different shades of a situation, multiple implications of an action, or the complex dimensions of a problem. Thus, a creative leader will be better equipped toavoid cognitive fixedness by acknowledging that there can be multiple approaches to, or interpretations of, a situation or challenge.
How to foster a creative culture
So, what can companies do to spark the fire of creativity at the office. Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not all about producing works of art. It is much more than that. Creativity is a holistic mindset that can be cultured and should be nurtured for the best results. In a day-to-day workplace, creativity will mostly involve thinking outside the box, combining resources in new ways to counter novel situations, and coming up with ideas or solutions that might not be achievable through the obvious or the mundane.
There really cannot be any definitive guide to foster creativity, and no standardised model of implementation. However, the following pointers are generally agreed upon by business analysts and can be good starting points:
- Look for a scheduled approach to creativity, rather than waiting for that elusive “creative spark”. Creative thinking can often be overlooked if it doesn’t get dedicated time on our calendars, as workers will always be more occupied with regular tasks and meetings that are pre-scheduled.
- Create an idea bank so that no idea is wasted. Naturally, the best ideas will be implemented – but those that are now being rejected can be useful whenever a new situation emerges. This will also encourage employees to offer their ideas more freely and without the fear of outright rejection.
- Allow flexibility in work schedules. Employees who are at peace with both home and work come up with the best ideas. People can think more clearly when they have reduced stress levels.
- Value the informal approach. Too much formality and seriousness almost always kill creativity. Humour and playfulness in interactions stimulate our brain by creating a sense of belonging and safety, inspiring creativity. Conversations during walking can also be a great way to stimulate creative ideas. Moving around energizes the brain. According to findings from Harvard Medical School, walking meetings enhanced creativity by 5.25% and engagement by 8.5%. Stanford University confirms that walking increased creative thinking by 60%.
- Collaborative teamwork is a key element in free exchange of ideas. Companies must maintain a collaborative and social environment where employees can interact with colleagues across groups and departments. Knowing more about the company and its diversity will act as a foundation during the creative process.
- Instil freedom and autonomy to let the ideas flow. Increased sense of responsibility and autonomy will encourage a greater sense of belonging and the confidence to speak out without fear.
- Never press for practical solutions or technical details while innovating. Focusing on the implementation part too early during brainstorming stifles the creative process. Encourage the thoughts first and deliberate on the details later.
- Never censure failure if the intent was right. Deliberate on what went wrong, but never engage in fault finding. While brainstorming, perfection or thoroughly polished work is not the objective.
- Companies taking the creative approach must allow for risk-taking without negative consequences. Calculated risk is essential to enhance competitive advantage and encourage creativity. Let the employees feel free to come up with plans that could go wrong – so as not to stifle the flow of ideas. Do the calculations later.
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