Highly creative people are an asset to organizations. But what exactly do organizations and leaders do to promote creativity within their ranks? One way is to focus on developing creativity within employees. It is true that some people, by nature, are more creative than others. However, there still are skills that anyone can develop to become more creative. I have drawn on the leadership literature to present techniques for organizations and leaders to use that have been demonstrated to promote creativity (Greenberg, 2005).
- Encourage openness to new ideas:Many good ideas go undeveloped because they are not in keeping with the current way of doing things. Becoming more creative requires allowing oneself to be open to new ideas or, as it is often described, thinking outside the box. Some companies do this by sending their employees on thinking expeditions – trips specifically designed to put people in challenging situations in an effort to help them think differently and become more creative.
- Take the time to understand the problem:Meaningful ideas rarely come to those who don’t fully understand the task at hand. Only when time is taken to understand the many different facets of the issue can people be equipped to develop creative solutions.
- Develop divergent thinking: Divergent thinking involves taking new approaches to old problems. Teaching people various tactics for divergent thinking prevents problems from incubating, thus setting the stage for creative new ideas to develop. One popular way of developing divergent thinking is known as morphology. Morphological analysis of a problem involves identifying its basic elements and combining them in systematically different ways.
- Ensure autonomy:It has been established that people are especially creative when they are given the freedom to control their own behavior – that is, they have autonomy and are empowered to make decisions.
- Provide exposure to other creative people:It is widely assumed that workers are likely to be creative when they are surrounded by other creative individuals. Being around creative people inspires one to be creative and one can learn creativity-relevant skills from them as well. Although this is true under some circumstances, research suggests that the big picture is not so simple. Specifically, the effect on a person’s creativity of having creative coworkers depends on the extent to which that individual is closely monitored by his or her supervisor.
- Allow ideas to cross-pollinate:People who work on just one project run the risk of getting stale, whereas those who work on several are likely to come into contact with different people and have a chance of to apply ideas they picked up from one project to another project.
- Make jobs intrinsically interesting:Research has shown that people are inclined to be creative when they are intrinsically interested in the work they do. After all, nobody will want to invest the effort it takes to be creative at a task that is uninteresting. With this in mind, creativity can be promoted by enhancing the degree to which tasks are intrinsically interesting to people.
- Set your own creative goals:Being free to do as you wish does not necessarily imply goofing off. In fact, the freedom to make your own decisions pays off handsomely when people set their own creative goals.
- Support creativity at high organizational levels:Nobody in an organization is going to go out of his or her way to be creative if it is not welcomed by the bosses. Supervisors, team leaders, and top executives must encourage employees to take risks if they are to have a chance of being creative. At the same time, this involves accepting any failures that result.
Greenberg, J. (2005). Managing behavior in organizations. Pearson Prentice Hall.