Building a Culture for Creativity

Businesses that are able to set the curve for innovation and development among their competitors against the competition are more likely to be successful in our dynamic world. Businesses that can adapt quickly and solve problems are better able to serve their customers, improving their reputation and profitability. While we often admire companies with these qualities, it is less obvious how they reached success in these areas. There is no one perfect answer, but an important contributing factor is their ability to build a culture for creativity.

Though it may not be immediately obvious, fostering creativity builds the foundation for these characteristics of successful businesses. Many people think of creativity as an innate quality we can’t change. Perhaps an artist or musician comes to mind when you think about it – but creativity is more than that. Creativity is when a manager crafts with a novel solution for an ongoing problem in their organization. Creativity is when an executive revolutionizes a process by asking, “What happens if we do it this way?”

Simply put, to be creative is to create a product or process, or solve a problem in a way that is both novel and useful. This seemingly simple thought or action is the catalyst for the success of many companies. More importantly, creativity is not an innate, static quality, but something that can be fostered at every level of an organization, by initiating a culture for creativity.

The harder question is, how? Thankfully there are decades of research to help us answer this question. Below are a few scientifically-backed strategies for any company or individual manager to implement that will foster creativity.

1) Develop Leadership

It is no secret that good leadership is key to business success, but developing what is often called transformational leadership, in particular, can help initiate a culture for creativity. Transformational leaders are role models for their employees, they inspire and motivate, clearly communicate their vision, and provide opportunities for intellectual growth value the unique contributions of each employee. These characteristics spark creativity in teams by building their creative identities, improving their creative efficacy, increasing their intrinsic motivation and empowering them to achieve more. How does this work exactly? Imagine you are a brand new hire and your boss immediately takes you under her wing. She encourages you to be creative, to try new things and helps you grow from failures, instead of chastising you. She provides opportunities that push you intellectually and genuinely values your contributions. You grow to respect her and are inspired by her actions and her vision. This is the sort of boss under whom you are likely not only to take creative risks but to succeed in them because you have had the practice and training you need to do so.

hands holding a lit lightbulb

2) Support and Model Creativity

To build a culture for creativity leaders, transformational or not, need to support creative efforts, and more importantly, engage in their own. It is leader behavior that sets the tone for what is acceptable. Employees are much more likely to attempt creative solutions if they know they will be supported and valued for their efforts, even if they are not wholly successful. It is important to view failures as an opportunity for growth because thinking creatively requires some practice, and novel products often require trial and error. Even better, leaders can model creativity, in its successes and failures, themselves. Employees who respect and identify with their leader are likely to follow suit.

3) Cast a Compelling Vision

If goals are clearly communicated, attainable and valued by employees, they are likely to be committed to working toward these goals. Commitment is important because it gives meaning to work and instills a sense of purpose and personal responsibility, all of which increase intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation has long been known to improve creativity and the perseverance it often requires. Imagine a project that is important to you, you will likely work harder and longer at succeeding. Instead of giving up when obvious solutions don’t work, you try other, more novel solutions. You are willing to continue to troubleshoot and tweak these solutions until you have a novel product far beyond what you would have otherwise accomplished. The same thing happens when employees see the value in their work.

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4) Value Communication

Complex projects and problems often require contributions from a variety of team members. In today’s world, information is often needed from disparate knowledge sources; it is unlikely that one person will know enough to achieve creative success on their own. Therefore knowledge sharing, both within, and between departments is important. It is often new knowledge and perspectives that spark a creative solution. Encourage this communication both formally, and informally. This knowledge sharing can happen even in casual conversations and friendships between employees in different departments.

5) Hire for Excellence

While much can be done to encourage creativity in existing employees, hiring is also an important part of developing culture. Hiring the right employees, those with an internal drive for excellence is invaluable for increasing creativity. These employees are intrinsically motivated to go above and beyond, which is often required for creative solutions and products. Starting with the right people makes everything easier.

Man and woman shaking hands

Are you seeking to build a culture of creativity?  Hire and develop leaders who constantly nurture others and ask “why not?” when encountering seemingly impossible barriers? Our team is eager to learn about your challenges and discuss potential solutions.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Freier, a PhD Student at Bowling Green State University’s nationally ranked Industrial-Organizational Psychology Program (and alma mater of our Managing Director, Jennifer Yugo.). As an intern at Corvirtus, she provided analytics using our extensive employee experience data and selection tools and shared her research expertise on bias and team creativity. To learn more about Lindsey, connect with her on LinkedIn.

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