Whether it’s an idea for a new product or an innovative way to solve a business challenge, companies today should embrace creativity if they want to stay relevant in the marketplace.
We are rapidly entering an era of creative intensification, and corporations that are unwilling to foster a creative environment will find it difficult to compete with those that do. So how does it work? How do you bring more creativity into a place of business? Can it be used to drive revenue?
For starters, it’s about being willing to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable and are encouraged to share their thoughts openly. Leaders within the business must be prepared to listen to everyone’s ideas because the best leaders understand that innovation can come from anyone, regardless of their position in the company.
That’s what trips most people up. When leaders feel like all the ideas must come from them, they miss a tremendous opportunity to gain insight from the people who are in the best position to help the company grow — the employees.
For example, a two-year, in-house creativity course at General Electric resulted in a 60% increase in patentable concepts, while creativity-training participants at Pittsburgh Plate Glass showed a 300% increase in viable ideas compared with those who didn’t take the course. Those are significant increases and worthy of attention.
Linda Naiman, founder of Creativity at Work, said, “For innovation to truly flourish, organizations must create an environment that fosters creativity; bringing together multi-talented groups of people who work in close collaboration together — exchanging knowledge, ideas, and shaping the direction of the company’s future.”
But you must be willing to go all in. For creativity to truly deliver an ROI, everyone in the company must be on board. Check your ego at the door and embrace a culture where everyone can feel safe to voice their opinions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a room and witnessed someone get destroyed because they had summoned the courage to speak up, only to be told by management, “Well, we’ve tried that already, and it didn’t work!”
That employee took a risk to offer a thought, only to be made to feel like their contribution was silly and unworthy of consideration. Creativity will not flourish in that type of toxic environment.
Too often, today’s risk-averse business conditions don’t support creative thought and ideation the way they should. Most are great at tracking production costs, profitability, taxes and payroll. Essential items that go into running a successful business. But, creativity doesn’t receive the same status and gets brushed aside.
Consider the recent survey on creativity by Adobe who surveyed business people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, and Japan. 80% of respondents felt that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth. 75% said they are constantly under pressure to be more creative at work. Therein lies the challenge. Creativity isn’t something that can be mandated. You can’t order employees to be more creative, then criticize them if positive results don’t immediately show up on your spreadsheets. Businesses that tap into the power of creativity stand a much better chance of developing new products, unlocking new markets and discovering new revenue streams. Focus on creating an environment for employees to grow and develop creatively, and support their efforts by allowing them to take risks.
Don’t stigmatize mistakes. Be willing to entertain different opinions. Have the courage to try new approaches. Embrace ambiguity. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Be open to hearing the things you need to hear as opposed to what you want to hear. Do these things consistently, and you’ll see an impact.
Creativity is real, and it’s here to stay. Those companies who are brave enough to accept that fact can capitalize on creativity’s undeniable power and use it as a force for change and growth.
The good news is the future only comes one day at a time. The bad news is if you’re unwilling to bring creativity into your business, you won’t have much of a future to worry about.