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How to promote creativity


Stand out from the crowd and embrace your inner creative - it might just boost business, say Richard Hawkes and David Adams.

In a highly competitive business environment, it is essential to create that point of difference and to be seen and heard above the noise. Embracing creativity and innovation can be the difference between success and failure, and are essential for the growth and survival of any business.

In fact, encouraging creativity in the workplace is proven to boost staff productivity and satisfaction, and helps improve company performance. So why do so many businesses value logic above creativity? For many business people, the art of using the creative right side of the brain was lost in their teenage years.

Education, cultural inhibitions and modern society have taught us that logic and analytical reason are more important, and this is reinforced in business - especially so in the professional services sector like law, accountancy and banking. As a result, many senior executives and managers have got too bogged down by logical thought and results. However, employing people that are only using half their potential and talent is not very productive.

By re-awakening creativity and combining it with structured thinking, we can use ‘whole brain thinking’ - a more powerful and complete way of thinking. Being able to connect the two can lead to better communication, more innovative problem solving, better decision making, more inspired solutions, imaginative planning, effective ways of developing new products or services, and improved teamwork and results. Successful and iconic companies such as Apple, Dyson, Microsoft, Google and Tesco don’t just build on what’s already in the marketplace. They use ‘whole brain thinking’ to come up with completely new – and possibly, at the time of concept, outrageous – ideas.

Encouraging creativity

So how can trainers and learning and development professionals promote creativity? Everybody within an organisation should be encouraged to be creative, whether it’s the managing director or administration assistant. A creative work culture fosters openness and dynamic and constructive debate within business. Stifling creative thought is the easy option, particularly as permitting people the space to be creative might be seen by many to be time wasting.

To embed creativity within a company it is best to nurture it from the top and allow it to cascade down. If senior personnel don’t buy in, then staff will quickly get slapped down and not be given the chance to air their ideas. Senior mangers should be encouraging innovation and imagination, and allowing individuals to experience their thoughts, feelings, ideas and suggestions, which can help provide clarity on specific issues or solutions.

Another way to kick-start the process is to hold regular ideas sessions that involve people from different departments and management levels. Give employees permission to be creative and praise ideas regardless of how irrelevant they may seem at the time. Offer rewards for good ideas and make sure that people are kept informed on what’s happening, even if the idea’s been put on the back burner for a while. And try suggestion boxes for those not involved in the ideas sessions.

Once the process of opening the channel of communication has started, businesses can look at additional ways to foster creativity within their organisation. It could just simply be reading a poem or discussing a picture before a meeting to trigger the creative thought processes. Or try holding a workshop that allows people to learn to connect logical thinking with inspirational thinking and to explore their feelings in a non-threatening environment. Art, drama, singing, writing stories, music and poetry can all be used to help unlock creativity.

Einstein said that you can’t solve a problem using the same kind of thinking that created it. By nurturing people’s creativity within an organisation, being bold and thinking the unthinkable, the business will reap rewards.

Richard Hawkes is an executive coach and runs Unlimited Potential, a coaching and leadership development company. He also leads a think tank of top businessmen with Vistage, an organisation dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of chief executives. David Adams is an associate executive coach with Unlimited Potential and a performance poet. He specialises in unlocking creativity in business people through poetry. David also leads a Vistage group.

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