Mark Angelo, CEO, Yorkville Advisors
Building a creative company culture will take thought and effort. Often, jobs by their nature, become mundane and creativity doesn’t usually expand in ongoing routine situations. Though, interesting, for short bursts of time, doing non-thinking tasks can open up the mind for further creative thoughts. Like everything else in life, it’s about finding the right balance.
As the leader though, you can impact the level of creativity happening in your team by cultivating the environment and culture in that vein. Here are some ideas that work for teams and individuals to encourage creative thinking.
Encourage employees to “decorate” their workspace with things that inspire them. Those with artistic tendencies should have sketch pads or writing notebooks to help. If you have music playing in the background, look into the need for certain types of music working well for different times of day. Mornings might work best with softer four-count music (waltz’s are four-count) music, where 3pm might be best with upbeat music to pull people out of the mid-day slow-down.
Build time into the day for people to talk, brainstorm, ask questions of each other, even if the conversation isn’t work-related, social interaction that encourages thinking beyond the norm should spark some creativity. So you might have question jars located strategically around the office – water cooler, kitchen space, even the restrooms. Or post a daily question for people to discuss when they are in conversation. If you choose the questions, make them upbeat, fun, and unusual.
Sponsor a quarterly event during lunchtime. Provide lunch, but beyond that, make the event about activity and connectivity between employees. You might have a football toss, etc. about the time of the Super Bowl, or set up for a picnic in the summer, with blankets on the floor, make your own ice cream, play some form of tag or other usual outdoor activity. You could also do an office version of Chopped – or try doing it with supplies other than food.
Set up a couple of walking groups for break times. Have them focus on seeing something beautiful rather than speeding through the walk. A shorter, slower walk can help people’s thoughts get free of the everyday and begin to look beyond that.
Another thing to try, when there is a mistake that happens in work, have people write it down. Once a month or so, have a mistake discussion … not to fix things necessarily, but to turn it into something fun. You might discuss all the things that could have happened in addition to make it really horrible, or replace a word in the brief description to make it sound positive, or even ask for the craziest suggestions people can think of to address the problem. This can open up creativity in several ways, but one of them is making sure that people know that making mistakes is not the end of the world.
One final suggestion is to have a set routine when things begin to get stressful in the workplace. Allow anyone there to loudly proclaim, “Three deep breaths on the count of ten, starting now, two, three, … ten.” Doing that through three deep breaths can refocus the setting and release some of that stress that’s getting in everyone’s way.