Creativity and innovation is needed in all businesses, but too often businesses owners can get so swept up in the day to day that they lose the ability to spend time focusing on creative thinking.

creativeA high pressurised working environment focused on targets can mean that innovation and creative thinking takes a back seat, which can prove fatal in the long term.

A study carried out by analyst group, Forrester on behalf of Adobe back in 2014 found that companies that foster creativity outperform their rivals in terms of both revenue growth and market share. 58% of respondents from ‘creative’ companies (those that encourage a creative culture) said their revenues have strong growth (10% or more year-on-year) versus only 20% of less-creative businesses.

Creative companies are also twice as likely to report a market leadership position compared with their competitors. So how can businesses get the creative juices flowing again?

Managers can actually get people using the right hand side of their brain in a heartbeat, and they only need to keep people there for a few moments to achieve the magic of raised energy, higher motivation and increased creativity. It the same concept that works when children put their coats down on the ground and kick a ball around for a few minutes.

Here are a few tips on how to do this:

  1. Start by telling your employees that you want to hear their ideas. Stress that no ideas are bad ideas, and make sure you always give positive and constructive feedback to new ideas.
  2. Don’t ask employee directly what they are going to do to solve the problem (since this pushes them to make a judgement and be correct – very left brain), ask them what they could do or what they might do, as this encourages them to think of possible ideas, and communicates to them that you do not expect them to come to the right answer straight away.
  3. Ask the question ‘what else could you do’? Wait until the stream of ideas is exhausted and this process will again encourage real right brain thinking
  4. Pose ‘what if….’ type questions, as this puts people in a pretend scenarios and takes away the fear of having to get the ‘right’ answer straight away in order not to look foolish. ‘What if you had a week to solve this problem, not a month?’, ‘What if you had a million pounds to solve the problem?’, ‘What if you were Richard Branson?’ These are all good questions to get the creativity flowing.
  5. Accept the answers in the spirit in which you have asked them – see that they are part of a process of uncovering the best solution, and as such any idea is progress.
  6. Demonstrate through your coaching that you are more concerned with their success and development, than you are with the problem. After all, the problem is simply today’s manifestation of that employee’s situation, competence and attitude.
  7. Don’t leave the conversation without closing – asking for a commitment. If the solution has popped out you can simply ask when the employee is going to put it into action. If the solution is still unclear, you should at least ask what their next step will be, or how they will move things forward.
  8. Use the internal brand of ‘jumpers for goalposts’ in meetings to signify a ‘time out’ – a ten minute brainstorm. This will communicate that anything goes and that we can have a bit of fun.
  9. Remember to act on suitable ideas and encourage staff to follow through. Once people can see that suggestions are taken seriously and managers listen then it may encourage others less inclined to be think more creatively. If not people could wonder what the point is and not bother.
  10. Finally encourage employees to look at what other organisations are doing to be creative. It’s important to keep an eye on your competitors but also looking at companies in a completely different sector could unleash ideas that could be tailored to your business.

By Stephen Archer, director, Spring Partnerships