For any employee, gaining valuable experience in the workplace happens by working with great leaders. However, the best leaders are actually not providing their employees with every ounce of guidance and knowledge they can think of. In fact, the best leaders are providing their teams with the resources and the space to grow into knowledgeable, experienced individuals. 

To get there, leaders need to offer their teams a creativity-driven environment. This kind of environment can help improve the organization’s industry agility, allow the employee to develop risk-taking skills, and increase the efficiency of new product development processes (among many other benefits). Let’s dive into more benefits of a creative work environment and how you can get started on building one!

Why is creativity important in the workplace? 

Creativity has been cited as one of the most important qualities in the workplace, especially for leaders. As the technological revolution grows exponentially, employees are being asked to think of more unique ways to approach product development, marketing, sales, and even accounting! With the vast amount of data and automation available today, creativity is one of the only remaining human traits that can not yet be fully replicated by AI or robotics. Therefore, humans still have an advantage to leverage creativity when supporting employees, creating campaigns, or thinking through how they can automate processes more effectively than competitors. 

Give and get feedback in real-time

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12 ways to inspire creativity in the workplace 

1Provide regular feedback

In the workplace, feedback is most often used to guide someone in the right direction. Additionally, it can be used for teammates to share ideas for how to better improve a concept. In feedback meetings, consider taking some extra time to shortlist a few ways that the project could be improved. For the owner of the project, these ideas don’t have to be a concrete solution. Instead, they can be building blocks of inspiration for how to further improve the project in useful or unique ways. 

Pro Tip: Give and get feedback in real-time, effortlessly with Fellow. If you want to help your team thrive, you need to create a culture where giving, receiving, and implementing feedback is part of the DNA.

2Give employees autonomy

While it can be good to maintain consistent contact with new employees as they onboard, consider giving your employees more autonomy over their projects as their time at the company progresses. As employees get comfortable with their role, they can apply their unique perspectives and insight to improve processes, kickstart a fun campaign, or even generate a flexible working environment that’s in tune with their routine. Employees with autonomy are also much more likely to feel motivated to succeed in their role, and may even go the extra mile in making a truly out-of-the-box idea come to life!

3Offer flexible work hours 

Granting your team flexible working hours is another way to give employees autonomy. Doing so allows your employees to work at the time of day that sparks the most creative energy for them. We all know that morning people are the go-getters before the sun rises, and the night owls ramp up productivity by late afternoon, so why not make the most of this natural rhythm! 

If you employ any parents, they may need to work around their kids’ schedules, meaning “normal” work hours may cut off their creative energies if they have to leave early for kid duty. 

4Brainstorm as a team

Two brains can be better than one, especially when brainstorming ideas for upcoming projects. And in a lot of cases, the more brains, the better! Try practicing a brainstorming technique like mind mapping that allows team members to branch ideas off each other. This approach allows all employees to share their voices, connect with other members of the team, and stack up ideas as building blocks towards the next big project. 

Alternatively, you may consider a rapid-fire approach where employees quickly list as many ideas as they can without worrying about the feasibility of the task. When you remove constraints around the project, you’ll likely find yourself thinking of more far-reaching ideas. 

Try this free Brainstorming Meeting Template:

5Support failure 

Failure in the workplace is one of the biggest blessings. Not only does it tell us that something won’t work, but it may also give us insights into how or why a certain approach doesn’t work as well. Ultimately, failure helps us get one step closer to the right decision. 

Today’s top companies (like Facebook, Tesla, and Apple) were born from founders who valued risk and the possibility of failure. Without their view on risk as a worthwhile endeavor, we may not have some of the great technological innovations that we have today. While we may fail on our first few risks, it’s important to learn from each failure so we can apply this knowledge to make the next jump a little more educated. 

6Foster an inclusive environment 

Your employees are on your team to put their knowledge and expertise to use, which would go to waste if they didn’t have opportunities to actively share their perspectives. Encourage employees to regularly share their thoughts, whether in a group setting or during their one-on-one. In team meetings, foster an environment where employees feel comfortable to provide feedback, suggest alternatives, or even speak up about the gaps that are currently missing in the current project. 

7Set clear goals and objectives 

For some employees, ideating with no structure can be nearly impossible. Try to mitigate this by adding some “boundary lines” or a rough structure within which the employee can work. For example, instead of asking them to “run an unforgettable event,” ask them to “run an unforgettable event for approximately 500 people with a budget of $15,000.” From there, you can guide them by setting smaller milestones for them to achieve, like determining an event theme, securing a venue, and sourcing a unique entertainment activity. Measuring these objectives in a shared place will help you and your employee know where the room for creativity starts and ends, giving them something tangible to work with. 

8Host regular one-on-ones 

One-on-one meetings are a great place for you to have an open conversation with your employee about how their projects are going. For new or quiet employees, it may feel intimidating to share ideas in a group setting, so the direct meeting can allow them to share new ideas with just you. Additionally, you may want to provide an employee with feedback or inspiration on unique ways to improve a project which isn’t relevant to other team members.  

Try this free one-on-one meeting agenda template:

9Create a creativity-boosting office space 

For in-office teams, sometimes just a change of scenery can boost your creativity. Try hosting your meetings in different ways every now and then, like by sitting on bean bag chairs, gathering in a different part of the building, or even going for a walk-and-talk. 

One of the limitations of working from home is the difficulty in creating new, stimulating environments to inspire creativity. If you’re a leader who manages a remote team, you may consider doing virtual team-bonding events, ordering take-out to each employee ahead of the brainstorming meeting, or connecting asynchronously through open idea boards.

10Celebrate creativity

Creativity breeds creativity. Building a culture of experimentation, risk, and failure is part of building a culture of creativity. When someone succeeds in an idea, celebrate! Each win likely has a lot of time, research, or failure involved—and in many cases, all three. Consider bringing your team together to walk through how an employee generated the winning idea so other team members can learn new processes for innovation. 

11Avoid micromanagement

Micromanagers are the workplace version of helicopter parenting. Constantly hovering over employees’ desks, determining itty bitty details on assignments, and checking in too often create too much structure and reporting time, which takes away from an employee’s ability (or motivation) to ideate freely.

Avoid micromanaging and instead focus on fostering trust between yourself and your team members. Trusting in your employees empowers them to take risks in their role, which is when true creativity is bred!

12Let employees lead the discussion

Employees feel motivated when they are intrinsically inspired to do their jobs. Meaning, employees want to want to do the work in front of them—and what better way than to let them take the lead? Not only will doing so help employees develop their decision-making and risk management skills, but it will also force them to think of new, creative ways to solve a problem, encourage them to reach out for support, and let them process ideas without the sometimes constraining box of prior knowledge and experience that you may want to provide for them. 

Parting advice

It’s common that leaders want to share all of their experience and advice to employees to help them make the best decision. Leaders doing this are practicing the “trust me, I know” approach, which may seem helpful, but in reality it only slows down innovation and limits the creative freedom afforded to employees. Instead, offer employees autonomy, provide a basic set of boundaries for the project, and trust in them to create new ideas that will help your company to excel above the rest.