Smart business owners encourage their employees to be creative. After all, employees are on the front lines and often know better than anyone how to improve a business.
Inspiring and supporting creativity, however, isn’t always easy. If you'd like to get the creativity flowing in your business, try these 10 techniques.
1. Encourage Free Thinking
It may seem obvious to promote free thinking, but it’s not always the way that businesses work. We often continue doing what we’ve been doing—and how we’ve been doing it—simply because, on some level, it works. But free thinking helps keep your business contemporary, relevant and profitable. It’s all about leaving behind old, outdated models, and discovering new ones. Create a culture in your business in which employees are encouraged to think freely and express their ideas.
2. Schedule Brainstorming Sessions
Sometimes the best way to encourage creativity is to schedule it into the day. This might seem counterintuitive, but the more creative thought can be scheduled, often the more likely it is to happen. Set aside time for a weekly brainstorming session that involves all your employees. Encourage employees from marketing to interact with ones from payroll or from tech services. These kinds of cross-workplace discussions can do wonders for your business.
3. Reward Creative Thought
Show that you value creative thinking by rewarding the employees who engage in it. Set up a system of rewards—such as gift certificates, prime parking spaces or vacation time—for employees who come up with ideas that increase sales or target new customers. Such rewards can be powerful motivators can show that you're serious about creative thinking.
4. Model Creative Thinking
The best way to encourage employees to be creative is to model it from the top. Show them what it means for the owner of the business to be creative, and they’ll be more likely to replicate this behavior on their own.
5. Provide Break Times
The best creative thinking comes when the brain has time to relax. Frequent and scheduled breaks can actually boost the creative spirit in the workplace.
6. Take Field Trips
Get out of the office and take your employees to visit other companies, conferences or even just parks. Field trips can get them—and you—out of their everyday comfort zone and into a space where new thoughts and ideas can take hold.
7. Support Artistic Expression
Encouraging your employees to engage in artistic endeavor—painting, drawing, writing, cartooning or even pottery-making—can get them to see your business’s challenges and issues in a new light. These activities can occur during work time or after hours.
8. Communicate Openly
No matter how creative your employees are, you’ll never know about it if you’re not talking with them about their ideas. Talk openly with them, both formally and informally, about what can be done better, what can be improved, and what their overall ideas are for changing the business.
9. Bring in a Coach
Creativity coaches can offer workshops and one-on-one consulting sessions to help boost creativity. You might be surprised how much they can bring to your business and what they can offer to both you and your employees.
10. Evaluate, Measure, Track
When your employees come up with creative ways to improve the business, boost sales or bring about other improvements, make sure to evaluate the changes. The evaluation process is just as important as the implementation stage, since it can give you and your employees a sense of what works, what doesn’t and why. It can also give you the chance to fine-tune new procedures in order to make them work even more effectively.
Creative business practices can seem mysterious and out-of-reach, but in fact, they’re accessible to any business owner who's willing to foster them. Once you make creativity a priority, your business—and your employees—can flourish.
This article was originally published on September 1, 2014.