Discover Your Creative Imperative

Parachute canopy by Zenas M, on Flickr

Parachute canopy by Zenas M, on Flickr

Creativity always has been and always will be at the forefront of innovation and expansion. Companies throughout history that have become and remained successful are those that took risks, big and small, that were creative in nature. It is essential to keep the workplace fresh, to look at work via many, and different perspectives, and to not fall into the same daily routine that quietly lulls one to complacency. In short, whether you manage a family plumbing firm, practice in the professional services industries, or toil in retail, no business achieves its goals without some creative direction.

So creative thinking is imperative, but in today’s workplace, finding time for creativity can be nearly impossible. As the International Association of Business Communicators reports, organizations that encourage and carve out time for creativity have found increased employee engagement, motivation and productivity. The IABC’s January CW Bulletin explores this topic in great depth, but with the same fundamental premise: stimulating creativity in the workplace, and nurturing an environment that fosters creativity, is easy, but not without effort.

Remember, the creative mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open. In that spirit, here then, is a short list to get you started – a few simple tasks to make your work more creative, and with practice, more competitive and fulfilling.

Take The Scenic Route

Once a week, take a different route to work. Make sure you allow yourself enough time to make it on time, obviously, but diversify your commute. By starting the day surrounded by different scenery, you start the day with a new perspective, with new focus, and on a practical level likely to uncover opportunities that otherwise would have gone unnoticed: a solution to a lingering problem, a billboard with a customer prospect, a new marketing media or related creative execution in and of itself.

Explore the Internet

The Internet is a vast landscape of opportunity that could take multiple lifetimes to discover, yet doesn’t get explored to its creative potential nearly enough. Find 30 minutes a day (depending on your availability at work) to roam it freely. Visit blog sites, read articles, watch videos that could offer new ideas, potential partnerships or sponsorships, grass roots marketing campaign ideas among many other slants on business a mere click away. Keep an open mind: the sites don’t have to directly relate to your business but the chance they indirectly may is extremely high, whether you see it at first or not. Check out your competitor’s sites and social media pages to see what they are up to, find out what the latest buzz on Facebook and Twitter is (Certainly among the more than 1.2 Billion combined users someone will be thinking differently than you.); allow yourself to follow the related links and videos tabs. Some of my favorite sites to stimulate alternative thinking include buzzfeed.com, deadspin.com, huffingtonpost.com and complex.com.

Enjoy the Local Community

A great way for local startups to get early business traction is to immerse themselves in the community directly surrounding them. As an employee of the business and a member of the community it is important to know who and what is going on in town. So once a week go have lunch at a different restaurant in the various areas of town. Take note of the people eating there, the other companies marketing in that area, other local startups that you could team up with and potential business opportunities. At worst you had a decent lunch at a new spot. Also, find out what local events (concerts, festivals, etc.) are coming to town in the near future. See if you could be a sponsor or market around the event; then go, enjoy, drink up the culture.

Carve out time to Daydream

As Psychology Today reports, daydreaming may seem “like the antithesis of ‘work,’ yet it’s truly at the core of our most important type of productivity – creative problem-solving. That’s why some of the most innovative companies in the world feature programs that give key employees the time and space to think creatively.” As with the ideas mentioned above, it’s not enough for you alone to develop habits stimulating creative thinking, no for your enterprise to reap the benefits of creative thinking, you must nurture a work environment that rewards fresh ideas. Whether you manage a family plumbing firm, practice in the professional services industry, or toil in retail, no business wilts with a creative bent.

Psychology Today recommends several tactics for developing just such a business culture:

  • Show your people you value creative thinking by exhibiting creative habits yourself. (Start by sharing your discoveries uncovered via the exercises outlined above.)
  • Tell people you value their ideas. Provide them time and space to think creatively (i.e. daydream). As little as thirty minutes of work time a week for exploratory thought sends the message that creativity is valued, no matter when, where, or how ideas are conceived.
  • Ask “what if” questions and encourage speculative thinking. Avoid questions with yes and no answers.
  • Accept, even anticipate, risk and a certain amount of failure.
  • Provide a forum for idea sharing and related feedback.

And finally, be prepared to follow through with the sound ideas germinated from your creative efforts. (Selectively differentiating among the sound and frivolous ideas is an exercise in creativity in and of itself.) Strategically, it’s critical that the germination of creative ideas be given a chance to bear fruit. But even if you don’t see results from your new creative activities immediately, work and life will become more, well, fun. And by example, the creative process is, in fact, immersed in the journey, the means justifying the ends.

What do you do to stimulate creativity in your workplace? What direct successes can you attribute to creative endeavors?

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