Creativity and innovation rest at the heart of any business, but it’s especially important for startups to push the envelope and think outside the box. Fostering an environment where members feel comfortable communicating their thoughts and ideas freely is invaluable, as it’s the essence of problem solving and growth, both individually and as a team. For this week’s Garage Hacks, we’re sharing some of our favourite actionable changes that you can make to your office to create an open and innovative work culture.
The first step to encouraging creativity in the workplace is to commit to this culture for the long haul. This means having the resources, financially or otherwise, to bring great ideas to fruition, rewarding great ideas, and not putting down the ones that don’t work out. Be open about your expectations, or intention to embed these values within the team.
Creativity is almost always compromised when the individual doesn’t feel like he or she can be their true self. Feeling the need to put on an act or fulfills an externally established role results in constrained thinking. A less strict dress code, or allowing employees to bring more personal items (e.g. their own coffee machine, books, plants, pets, etc.) into work are just some ways to encourage individuality.
Lack of time and space compromises creativity because individuals feel the need to stick to proven procedures based on their limited resources. Google is known to use this method, giving their employees one day a week to follow their passions, and this tactic seems to be working by the looks of it.
Short-term job swaps within the company not only makes for a fun time, but it also gives current employees the opportunity to see the bigger picture within the context of the company. Even in-house shadowing is great for providing perspective, inspiring ways to further develop and adapt their own position, and can correct instances of role mismatch.
Working in groups or in a communal environment (co-working, anyone?) is a great way to counter the inevitable competitiveness of any office. Individualism stifles creativity because it causes us to fear judgment or having our ideas stolen. Conversely, group work lends to shared responsibility and success, motivating and allowing employees to feel more comfortable with sharing new ideas.
Being open to different working styles or methodologies is a gateway to creativity if the status quo is failing to do so. Allowing employees to work from home for a couple days out of a month, having more team off-sites for brainstorming are approaches that are worth experimenting with, challenging them to adopt new ways of thinking and working.
Many startups nowadays provide free, or partially subsidise, gym memberships for their employees. They might be on to something good, as many studies have shown that exercise is a great way to facilitate creativity.
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