If you want your employees to spark creativity in the workplace, immerse them in a diverse culture and stimulating environment. From accounting to web development, compliance to sales, creativity is one of the biggest business assets you can have in the workplace. By encouraging that “outside of the box” mentality, you open doors to identify more effective solutions to problems and isolate your competitive advantage in the market. Though, findings from a 2017 Gallup study revealed that only 29% of respondents believe they’re expected to be creative in their roles or think of new ways to do things at work.
The reality is that employees hear “creativity” and might assume that it is a job skill limited to a graphic designer, marketing, or similar role, slamming the door on opportunities to improve the workplace through innovative ideas. Business innovation is paramount to a company’s success, as they boost the bottom line.
People might also lack adequate time or support in their respective departments to let those creative juices flow. That same Gallup study outlined that only 52% of employees indicate they’re given time in their workday to be creative.
Here are three tips to give every department of your workplace the permission they might need to let their minds run free and let a creative culture thrive.
1. Appeal to the senses
Run a quick audit and look around your office workplace. Really get a feel for the vibes, and overall energy you feel from the environment. The paint colors, the lighting, the ambient noises, even the overall office temperature. In the famous words of Marie Kondo, does any of it “spark joy”? Or does it feel sterile and uninviting? The way your office is staged can play a major role in the way your employees respond to and embrace creative thinking. Why not consider purchasing some rotating complimentary snacks for the office?
Consider the way your office appeals to two of the senses for improved creativity in the workplace:
Sight.How are you illuminating the space? Too often, organizations design workspaces for executives with large windows while lower-level employees do not have access to light. Light plays a crucial role in employee wellness and the way creativity blossoms in the space. Harvard Business Review found that 47% of employees admit they feel tired or very tired from the absence of natural light or a window at their office, and 43% report feeling gloomy because of the lack of light. How can you encourage creativity when nearly half of your workers are practically falling asleep at their desks? Try to flood in as much natural light, if you can.
In addition to light, the color palette of your office setting can play a major role in workplace innovation and ultimately impact your worker’s overall energy. Colors that appear sterile, such as variations of whites, greys, or tans can feel harsh. Imagine staring at a computer screen for an extended period, looking up and seeing a blank, bare white wall. Oppressive, right?
Try transforming your workspace with colors for improved efficiency and focus. For happier, and effective employees, aim for green and blue hues. For increased optimism and to foster creativity, it is suggested that yellows should also be present. Bold, warm colors can lead to lively conversations, ultimately sparking energy and creativity.
Sound.Is silence golden? Apparently not. While a quiet environment is ideal for staying focused, your employees might respond differently to varying noise levels. We’re not suggesting opening the window and letting random noises such as alarms, construction, or even loud coworkers’ conversations flood the space, as this can lower your productivity and the creative process, but it is suggested that background sound set at low to moderate levels may actually increase creativity. Set up and encourage the use of private or collaborative spaces and comfortable places to think which will stimulate creative thought and collaborative innovation.
2. Remove social barriers
Have you ever been too intimidated to speak up about something because you were afraid of rejection, judgment, or even retribution? It’s possible your workers may be feeling the same way. Are they afraid to think outside of the box or offer innovative suggestions because of social corporate culture constraints? Whether their own anxiety or the general office culture, you could be missing out on some great opportunities to grow. But how do you fix it?
If you want your employees to feel empowered to come forward with their ideas, start small and consider placing suggestion boxes around the workplace or distribute anonymous online surveys for them to submit their creative ideas.
If that elicits a response, then it could be a sign you’re headed in the right direction. Be sure to acknowledge these responses, as employees are more likely to offer suggestions when they believe their ideas are heard. Validating is key. If you receive a suggestion that may seem a bit obscure, try it! Then make it known that you will be implementing a creative suggestion or idea submitted by someone from the team. Workers will continue to let the creative ideas flow in when they believe they’ll be considered or implemented. If they don’t feel like their voices – anonymous or otherwise – are being heard, they’ll likely stop investing their time in offering ideas or suggestions.
3. Embrace Diversity
‘Birds of a feather flock together’ may seem like a safe choice, but is it the right choice for your workplace? The answer is almost always ‘no’. Homogeny may reduce conflicts in the workplace, but how can you really empower innovative thought when everyone thinks and acts the same way? When you staff a workplace with employees who share too many similarities, they often offer stagnant or repetitive ideas. Reduce the Stepford Wives vibes and hire a diverse team. Diversity contributes to an atmosphere of creative thinking, as people surrounded by various backgrounds, opinions, strengths, weaknesses, and job skills are exposed to various ideas and perspectives, which can lead to a variety of ideas and perspectives.
Forbes reports, “an increase in innovation and creativity among a culturally diverse group can create an esprit de corps and the feeling of positive progress for the benefit of the group and the organization.” Collective success like this fosters a feeling of purpose and camaraderie, which encourages supportive cooperation at the next collaborative opportunity.
How do you achieve this level of diversity collaboration? Start by scanning resumes for the differences in candidates that could benefit the overall business mission, not the immediate team or to complement the current staff you have in place. Think through the plan and research first. You risk creating a less-than-synergistic team if your intentions of building a diverse team aren’t sincere. Specific cultural groups may end up feeling excluded and overlooked, resulting in them banding together, creating an us versus them environment.