(From the editor: This article was originally published on Small Business Solutions)

Today’s digitized and technology-influenced world demands that CEOs and managers must navigate a “new landscape of work” – one that requires a significant change in strategies for nurturing talent and inspiring creativity. Networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Glassdoor, etc. enable people to easily find details about an organization’s culture at the touch of a button.

casual people working together

This means that leaders need to up their game in ensuring that the work environment where their workers operate in inspires experimentation, creativity, and innovation. Talk to psychologists, business leaders or analysts these days, and you will realize that a creative workforce is a necessity in today’s complex work environment and this is largely due to the following factors:

  1. Business organizations that are driving for growth are entering new markets and consequently, competition is coming thick and fast.
  2. Emerging technologies (think Artificial Intelligence, Big Data/Analytics, Internet of Things, Blockchain, etc.) are reinventing the nature of work.
  3. Employees are looking for more meaning and purpose in their work and being more creative helps them feel more confident and innovative.

An employee will always need new skills and the ability to continuously learn and adapt to the above-mentioned conditions. To be successful in this ever-changing digital age, workers need to generate new ideas, solve tough problems, and think outside the box. Google, for instance, is a strong supporter of creativity in the workplace, and it demonstrated this by creating a “20%” program that gives its developers permission to spend 20% of their work hours on a creative project of their own. In fact, the policy works well, with some of the best products of Google such as Gmail, Google Suggest, Google News originating from the program.

Creativity in the workplace is hot but often relies on a few factors, similar to a ‘block party’. Here are some of the ways that managers and CEOs can inspire creativity in the workplace.

Design a Culture Fit That Inspires Creativity

In order to inspire creativity among employees, leaders must ensure that the organization’s culture favours it. CEOs and managers need to understand that work culture is like a personality – it consists of values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, experiences and habits that guide the collective behaviour of the workforce. This means that thriving in today’s information age demands rapid innovation, experimentation, and collaboration – and the main enabler of success is talented and inspired employees.

Inspiring creativity and energizing employees to work effectively means creating and sustaining the right culture to support them. Leaders need to take an activist approach to shaping culture. This means that they should understand that for innovation to take place, they need to adopt a culture that encourages new thinking and experimentation and facilitate commercialization of ideas.

Encourage Collaboration By Leveraging Technology

According to a study by Gartner by 2022, 70% of organizations leveraging collaborative work management systems will report that their teams are significantly better performing while another study by Forrester indicates that only 25% of people feel their collaboration spaces are helping them to be creative.

Most employees are struggling to leverage the power of collaboration, and are still being managed through traditional hierarchical norms and operational silos. This can be a huge barrier to creativity and leaders need to leverage the best of technologies that foster collaboration. The workplace environment needs to support employees that need time alone to focus or rejuvenate, as well as time with small and large groups to collaborate.

This requires technology that is multifaceted and integrated into the workplace. An example of such technology is Idea Drop which is a one-size-fit-all solution that enhances collaboration. This system helps you harness the collective intelligence of your employees to solve business challenges faster and as a result, it enables them to collaborate, enrich and curate ideas. The point here is that in the digital age, collaboration tools are a significant enabler of openness. Openness correlates to engagement, to creativity and most significantly to the happiness of the workforce.

Empower Employees to Freely Make Decisions
By Controlling & Letting Go at the Same Time

Enhancing creativity among your workforce sometimes involves a combination of controlling and letting go at the same time. Exercise some control but don’t be too rigid. Provide your employees with some degree of freedom. Both managers and employees have to take responsibility in this matter. Employees must demonstrate that they are experimenting responsibly. In this way, they can test, fail and when necessary, they choose to shift direction independently.

Managers, on their part, must show confidence and ensure a conducive environment that allows freedom to experiment and be creative. They should provide guidance to their employees where needed and give a framework that secures the common goals of the organization.

Inspire Creativity by Increasing the Quality of Communication

As a leader, communicating behaviors that embed new ideas and concepts into the workforce matters a lot. People need to hear from their leaders frequently on matters of vision, strategy, direction and progress. Employees need to know that leadership is investing in their learning and reskilling to make them more creative and effective for the work ahead.

CEOs and managers should develop a communication style that pulls people (rather than pushes them) to a mix of formal and informal communication channels. And at the end of it all, make sure that you provide constant feedback to each and every employee.

Promote Creativity by Rethinking the Office Design

Leading CEOs and managers tend to promote creativity by adopting features such as open spaces, hot desking, modern furniture, communal work areas, etc. into the office spaces. You can set business functions such as sales, marketing, service, product development, production and technology staff together on a single floor that is open and focus the team’s efforts on a specific segment or platform niche. This helps in setting the tone and bringing employees together and as a result, they feel more open and comfortable when it comes to sharing ideas.

Final Thoughts

Neglect creativity at your peril. It matters from both a revenue standpoint and as a marker for how employees perceive their employer and their place of work. Creativity in the workplace brings focus, a changed mindset and more energy to the business environment. The focus on the Consumer or client provides a clear direction: delivering a high-quality and timely product or service is the main goal. The employee has the freedom to address affairs autonomously, to improve and to be creative.

After all, these employees are close to the customer and they understand their pain points and desires. Inspiring creativity among them enables effective and rapid responses to the environment in which the organization operates. In addition, they will become committed, proud and satisfied with their jobs and this consequently ensures a successful enterprise.