Want Creativity? Prove It

Companies spend a lot of time saying they want creativity. They should spend more time proving it than just saying it.

It’s easy for leaders to say they want innovation in their processes or a creative new way of thinking about whatever product or service they produce. Too often, though, their actions do not match their words. If you want to encourage risk taking and new thinking, you need to create a culture that encourages that. If your policies support the same old way of doing things, then that is what you’re going to get.

How can you have a culture that supports new thinking? Well, first of all, if people are going to take risks, you need to realize they are occasionally going to fail…and that needs to be ok. While you may not go so far as rewarding failure, you cannot punish it, either. If your Creatives think they’ll be punished for failing, they will not take a chance on it, and we know that finding something new means taking chances. You need to embrace failure and learn from it, examining why it failed and figuring out what to try next time. While your employees should not be reckless with your resources, and should be making a good faith effort to succeed, you should avoid punishing them for good faith failure. If anything, you should be learning from it rather than penalizing them.

People also need resources to be creative, and the most important resource is time. While you have work that needs to get done today, you need time to be thinking about tomorrow. Give your employees the time to work on something new, something unrelated to their regular job (or at least unrelated to their current project).

Do you have a well-defined career path that people need to follow in order to get promoted and advance in your company? If so, you are inhibiting creativity. If you are only promoting people who follow a standard way of doing things, then you are sending the signal that people need to stay on the same path in order to be successful. People who stay on the same path followed by others rarely find something new.

If you really want people to be creative you cannot just say it; you have to show them that you mean it. It’s really easy to pay lip service to creativity and innovation, so easy, in fact, that plenty of people do it. If you don’t follow through with action, you will not have a culture that promotes creativity; instead, you’ll have a culture that promotes the same old thing.

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