Keys to a Creative Culture

You can hire creative people, you can have them teleworking or sitting in an open-air office, your can pay them better than your competitors can match, but that does not guarantee you creativity. Your employees cannot just be creative on demand, or on certain days of the week, if they are going to be most effective. Instead, they need a culture of creativity, an environment that encourages and rewards creativity on a regular basis. Just as you cannot ski in a desert, you cannot expect to be creative if you have an organizational culture that does not support it.

In conversations with executives across Asia, we have identified some of the success factors they have found to be most important. Here are a few:

Clarity of purpose: the sense people have that innovation is a business priority. Your employees need to know they are there to be creative, that the organization exists to be creative. A good understanding of your firm’s mission is critical at all levels, not just among the senior leadership.

Outside-in perspective: an understanding that the organization is open to ideas from external sources, especially from customers. Truly creative people understand they always can learn more and they do not have a monopoly on good ideas. If leaders listen to outside views, the employees are more likely to as well.

Innovation discipline: managing innovation through a disciplined process. It is easy to sit around and fill up a dry-write board with ideas. It takes discipline to turn those ideas into reality. Creatives are more energized to be innovative if they know their efforts will have a result, instead of just being an idea that never gets pursued.

Idea generation: an expectation that employees will use their initiative and try new ways of doing things. If leaders do not want to move forward and try new things, employees won’t either. That’s death for a creative firm.

Idea support: the common feeling that the environment in the organization is supportive of the development and implementation of innovative ideas. This includes not punishing people for trying something that does not work. After all, if you never fail, you are not taking enough risks. Creatives need to know their leaders will support them when it comes to new, unconventional thinking.

Recognition: employees feel like they are rewarded and appreciated for identifying and implementing innovative ideas. If the whole idea of your organization is to be creative, then you need to reward those who meet your mission. If you want success to be repeated, you have to let people know when they’ve been successful.

These ideas don’t guarantee success — it is not a checklist for every firm — but they tell you what the minimum is.

How do you achieve all these factors? Well, that’s another discussion for another time…

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