Allowing Creativity in Your Business

If it weren’t for ideas, we would still be living in caves. If not for ideas, companies would not exist. If this is true, why then do companies do everything in their power to suppress their employee’s ideas to the point of not announcing those ideas for fear of the repercussions? Companies are filled with brilliant people. However, these brilliant people are not only the ones who run the business, but also the ones who answer the phones, crunch the numbers, and replace the light bulbs. There are hundreds of brilliant ideas brewing in your people’s minds at your company…right now. What does your company do to help nurture their ideas and help grow them into valuable innovations? Do you slap policies and processes on them to bog them down? Do you install a pecking order so someone else can take credit for the idea? Do you shun or diminish those who go against the grain and speak up for change that could help the company?

When was the last time you met with one of your team and listened to their ideas. This doesn’t mean just sat and thought of how you were going to tell them they were wrong…rather simply listened? If you’re typical it’s likely it wasn’t very recently. We have become accustomed to seeing the brilliant ideas of others as threats to our own…something to be feared and condemned, instead of combining them to create a great innovation.

Ideas are like flowers; given the right environment, the right nurture, the right nourishment…they will bloom into beautiful things. Step on them and they will whither. Fail to water or feed them and they’ll die. Deny them light, and they’ll fade.

There are three main barriers to allowing effective ideas to bloom at the workplace (The three P’s):
– people
– policies
– practices

When asked why they fail or succeed at what they do one of the top answers will be “because of the people at work”;. In an environment of insult, disrespect, or closed-mindedness, ideas cannot bloom. However, if team members are respectful, encouraging, and open-minded, ideas will inevitably be abundant.

This is especially true for the boss. One can have all the encouragement in the world from fellow employees, but if the boss is critical or unreceptive, they will never reach their potential…and will soon stop trying.

It’s been jokingly suggested that policies were invented by a crusty old human resources executive who was jealous of other employees enjoying their work, and wanted to make everyone miserable. Policies do have a purpose, but should not be used as a management weapon, or an idea-eliminator. When we say management weapon, we refer to the practice of killing a creative idea with the application of dated policies like, “That suggestion contravenes policy A-D-2, which reads: ‘no ideas may be implemented until approved by the 14 Department heads at the annual meeting.” A sure way to wipe-out creativity in your
organisation is to apply company policy to the process.

Practices, on the other hand are ‘life jackets’ for employees with a very low tolerance for change. “We don’t do that here”; or “We’ve always done it that way”; are two typical practices that are easily invoked and have a dramatic effect on everyone’s creative processes. The impact of change is all in how you frame it with those affected by it. Make an announcement or send a memo saying, “The XYZ Process is changing, as of tomorrow”; then of course there is bound to be resistance. Instead, consider feeding the idea generation process, nurture the process by representing and supporting it in a way that all will always understand, perhaps using the W.I.I.F.M. (What’s In It For Me) approach.

If an idea will make the workplace better, then be sure to explain, in specific terms, how it will better the jobs of others…helping
them become more. What’s in it for them to support or champion a new idea, approach, or process? We inherently think of ourselves first, why not address this truth first? If you get others to buy into your ideas, they’ll help you in its growing process. And if employees feel able to express their creativity, they may end up happier too!

For more advice and to gain some expert knowledge on nurturing creativity in business, book in for your FREE 30-minute coaching session with Mark Dilks HERE

Read our previous blog post here