Empowering Creativity in Your Team

The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” –  Albert Einstein

Creativity is the necessary element for changing the world.  Companies like Google and Apple are known for their “creative culture” and credit that culture as a part of their success.  In order to continuously improve your organization, lead the industry in innovation, and anticipate the future needs of your customers you need to empower creativity in your team.

It’s really not about changing your culture.  Culture isn’t a tangible item that can be targeted for change and measured as change happens.  Culture is the shared experience of the people in your organization.  Culture is the invisible “way we do things around here” that guides the decisions and motivations of your team.  It is a product of your leadership.

Creativity needs specific elements in order to survive and grow.  As a leader, you are able to create the necessary environment to spark creativity in your team.  Let’s look at that environment.

–          Creativity starts with Freedom.  Nothing kills creativity faster than micromanagement.  Are you willing to give your team the freedom to take risks?  Are you willing to share power with your team?  If you are serious about encouraging creativity, you must give your team a project, describe desired outcomes, and then step out of the way.

–          Creativity needs Space.  Creative efforts sometimes involve brainstorming, post it notes, and trial and error.  Teams need time together to collaborate and problem solve.  They need a space to gather in and allocated time in their schedules for creativity.

–          Creativity needs Encouragement.  Your team is more creative than you think they are.  They are also more creative than they realize themselves.  Encourage their creativity by believing in it.  Let your team know in your words and by your actions that innovative ideas are welcome.  Resist the urge to provide answers to questions.  Instead challenge your team to find answers independently.  Celebrate wins with the team, giving individuals credit for innovation.

–          Creativity needs Consistency.  Show your team you are committed to their success by remaining confident in their abilities even when they make mistakes.  Listen to them without judgment but instead encourage them to continue trying to solve problems and make innovative improvements.  Improvement involves risk because it involves previously untried processes and methods of doing work.  Require logic based innovation, and then help them assess where the logic failed.  Through your consistent response your team will refine their creative efforts.

Henry Ford inspired creativity in his team.  We have the famous V-8 single block engine because of his leadership.  According to the legendary story, Ford decided that a V-8 engine would give him an advantage.  He asked his engineers to design one.  Everyone on the team agreed that the task was impossible.  Ford told them to do it anyway.

The team tried for years and failed.  At each failure, Ford asked them to review their work and try again.  He continued to pay them and gave them the freedom to try and fail, learning from each mistake.  Eventually, through trial and error and refinement, they were able to design the engine.

Most innovations don’t require this level of persistence and dedication, but all of them require this type of leadership.  Demonstrate your vision to your team.  Describe your organizational goals and give your team the freedom to innovate and support your vision.  The results will amaze you.  More than that, your organizational culture will slowly be transformed by the experience into the kind of creative culture that differentiates your business in the marketplace.



2 thoughts on “Empowering Creativity in Your Team

  1. Michelle, another interesting post. In these rush-rush business times where everyone is doing more (not only with less) but much faster, we’ve seen short lead times hamper creativity. As you write, space is needed – another element of space is time. We are building time/space into our project plans for the creative theme development and attention grabbing collateral. Thanks, and be creative!

  2. Regarding space, we’ve seen another “space” needed is time, which is getting squeezed by shortened lead times and last minute decisions. We strive to build time space into our timelines on all theme development and creative collateral. Good post, Michelle.

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