These days, innovation counts as a key differentiator among competing businesses. What are the next great ideas and who will come up with them? Companies that rely upon a small group of people within the organization to develop proposed innovations may be missing out on another, larger group with potential creative input: their entire workforce.
As we have noted before, a business “made up of loyal employees aligned with the company culture is capable about just about anything” and “has a competitive advantage over other businesses still struggling to define their culture.”
The key is building a company culture that values the creative input of everyone within the organization. Here are tips on fostering such a culture:
Offer a broad picture of what’s needed.
Employees caught up with their own workloads may not fully grasp a company’s big picture. That’s why it’s so important to “explain the broader purpose for … changes and clearly communicate expectations for employees,” says KPMG. Explain how “change is an opportunity, not just a disruption,” and that their creative input “enables employees to focus on the important things in their roles.”
Encourage creative problem-solving.
Inevitably, businesses run up against challenges that demand “out-of-the-box” problem-solving. In the right kind of culture, employees are encouraged to apply their own knowledge and experience to these challenges, rather than just being told what to do by someone else.
Unfortunately, as WeWork notes, “employees get used to feeling like part of the pack and can sometimes think it’s better to just keep up with their workload, blend in, and not become a squeaky wheel.” That’s why employers must make clear that “individuality is appreciated,” so that team members can “respond well to these gestures and … reward you with their insights and ideas.”
Allot time for creativity.
If you present employees with the challenge of offering creative input, they may at first see this as just one more responsibility to bear. On the other hand, if you allot time for creative thinking, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Some businesses “offer sabbaticals or allow employees time to work on their own projects,” notes AllBusiness.com. This can include “attending conferences outside of the normal areas of expertise, working with people from other departments, and allowing time for travel ... or classes [that] can result in enhanced creativity and improved productivity.”