by Peter Luscombe
Having highly creative people is of little benefit without leaders 
who can mobilise and deploy resources to enable creative performance 
and without a culture that is supportive of these decisions.

This quote from Natalie Francis in her article Creativity in the workplace: what we know and what we do – proved an end-point for my last post.  The point, though valid, is not the complete picture. While managers and work culture do play a significant part, the individual, especially as part of a team is where creativity in the workplace really energizes.

Let’s step back for a minute to consider the benefits of fostering creativity in the workplace:

  • Better teamwork and team bonding
  • Increased workplace engagement and interaction
  • Improved ability to attract and retain quality employees
  • Increased staff morale, fun and happiness
  • Increased workplace problem solving and productivity

Be creative

With such benefits in mind, consider Dr Amabile’s extensive research which identified six leadership and management practices that foster creativity in the workplace:

  • Intellectual challenge
  • Freedom to choose method
  • Supplying the right resources
  • Effective design of work groups
  • Supervisory encouragement
  • Organisational support

Other tips and actions to foster creative thinking at the individual level and organisation-wide:

  • Encourage a mindset of continuous learning
  • Seek multiple options
  • Suspend judgment
  • Encourage brainstorming sessions
  • Engage fresh eyes
  • Take breaks
  • Get the culture right

I could see the principles, however, I still wondered how the individual made their contribution; their responsibility in the creative process. Of course that led me back to considerations of why people personally disengage at work and how that can be tackled. Boredom being one.

Feeling bored at work is inevitable. How you respond to such isn’t. Avoiding tags like being a ‘time server,’ being called to question by management, is not the way, right? You also might feel you’ve let yourself down? Most likely you’ve lost contact with your values and how they engage you in the workplace. More than likely an examination of where you’re at and where you want to stand will serve good purpose.

Carole Brown in the Essential Career Guide identifies six ways to help keep you fresh and relevant:

One – Monitor you own level of engagement and interest in your work. If it’s lagging, then identify why. It could be that there is a misfit developing between your values and the job. Perhaps your skills are not developing or workplace relationships are souring. Once you’ve done some diagnostic work, be pro-active about making some changes.

Two – Have regular conversations with your manager, clients and other key people about your career, so they know how you are tracking. You could discuss potential changes to your work and how you want to contribute in the future.

Three – Pay attention to changes occurring in the organisation so you know what big decisions are being made and how they may impact you and those around you. This enables you to have the conversations with key personnel you need to in order to position yourself well.

Four – Get noticed for the right reasons by turning up at work as positive, engaged and as outcome- focussed as possible. Avoid petty office politics and focus on what you want to achieve and what you are paid to deliver.

Five – Make positive workplace relationships your highest priority. The most common reason for things going sour at work is a breakdown in relationships.

Six – Play to your strengths and always look to learn more. Leverage your skills to ensure you produce good work and always be alert to opportunities for skill development. This will improve your employability.

Considering all of these insights, I could better see the relationship between the operation of the organization in matters of creativity and productivity, as well as how the individual held responsibility. A smile came to my face when I recalled a cliché: If you’re invited to a party then best wear your party hat. For me, that summed both the invite by an organization to be creative as well as the individual’s responsibility.

One principle I hold to is that ideas can come from anywhere; even the most unlikely sources. I’ve written about such in past posts; especially in the series – Lessons From Teaching. You do need to keep an open mind and read widely to be creative. That’s a personal responsibility, in my eyes. ‘Mashable’ – the Australian on-line edition – presented an article which caught my eye – 10 Ways to Spark Creativity in the Workplace.

Two ‘golden nuggets’ were:

  • Set aside time to find inspiration and be creative – It’s frighteningly easy to get caught up in the same daily routine. Exposing yourself to plentiful outside experiences for inspiration is critical for forming new ideas — and avoiding the same old ones
  •  Keep a running idea file – As you find interesting ideas, throw them into a text file. You can review this every couple of weeks and see if anything catches your eye. Use Google Docs, iCloud, or even index cards or Post-Its you can search through and cross-index

How far will your journey of being creative in the workplace go?

As far as you are invited and come to the party.

 party hat

Look out for the third in the three-part series on Creativity in the Workplace next Wednesday May 7.