How to Crank Up Workplace Creativity

lightbulb-as-bridge-michelle-smithIn the not too distant past, one good idea could catapult an organization to long-term success. Companies were able to leverage a new product or service to their advantage for several years, and creative output was tasked to a select few employees.

But now, dramatically shorter business cycles and customers obsessed with novelty and “what have you done for me lately?” have reduced many of those advantages, requiring all of us to crank up our creativity quotient in the workplace.

Creativity fuels innovation and growth
From research and development departments seeking pipelines of new products; to teams probing for time-saving process improvements; or CEOs searching for the next growth opportunity — all corporate leaders need to generate creative ideas within their teams.

Every organization should be proactively exploring innovative ways to continue to increase productivity, ignite employee engagement, and capture new market share.

Building a culture that fosters creativity and innovation is a critical leadership strategy for sustainability. As you exhaust easy productivity gains, you’ll need to focus on building solid top line growth, and this will come from the hard work of creatively finding and resolving the unmet needs of customers, or by demonstrating the value of current products and services to new markets and customers.

Misaligned creativity can be harmful
But creativity and innovation that isn’t aligned to your specific business goals or customer needs can be a potentially harmful distraction.

Corporate leaders who want to encourage productive innovation need to clearly define it for their organization and distinguish it from what is simply novel or trendy. Ideas that can’t be successfully implemented or commercialized are useless and waste time and resources.

Creative success only occurs when real value is created — when the idea significantly alters a process to reduce costs, or when others are willing to pay for it and it produces revenue.

Don’t rest on your laurels
Another competitive safe haven that has lost much of its advantage is quality. Being known for quality work used to give us confidence that we were secure in the marketplace.

But now, customers are seeking the remarkable and new, as well as flawless quality in every product or service, every time. In other words, there’s no resting on any of our old laurels and we must proactively encourage employees to experiment, modify, and explore every aspect of the business for improvements.

So invite every employee to think creatively and to participate in making the organization bigger, better, and stronger.

Ask for creative input and help them find innovative ways of working. Applaud curiosity, initiative, and persistence wherever you see it.

If you don’t rise to the creativity challenge, you’re squandering the advantages you’re hoping to gain, and risk being leapfrogged by competitors who don’t shrink from discovering and trying something new.



Michelle M. Smith

Michelle M. Smith

Michelle M. Smith is Vice President, Marketing, of O.C. Tanner. A highly accomplished international speaker, author, and consultant on performance improvement, Michelle is a respected authority on leadership, internal branding and employee engagement. She’s published and presented more than 1,000 articles and lectures and is a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and the governments of the UK and the US.

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