Creativity is being valued more than ever before by businesses. We’re living in an innovation-driven economy, after all, and the automatable work is being automated at a faster and faster pace. What’s left? The stuff that can’t be automated (for now!): creativity.
So what does this mean for leaders? We have to find ways to unleash creativity, both in ourselves and in our teams.
One crucial assumption to move away from is that innovation is the remit of a select group of individuals at a company. The members of that group vary depending on the industry: they might actually be referred to as ‘the creatives’; it might be the visionary CEO/Founder or C-suite thinkers; it might be the ‘Content’ team – or some combination of all of these.
The demands of the innovation-driven economy mean that creativity is now expected of just about everyone at some time or another. Here are some pointers for maximising creativity in your team.
Make creativity a collaborative exercise
Part of the reason that creativity has historically been a solo enterprise is that collaboration has historically been nothing like as easy as it is now. What we are seeing from top companies is the power of collaboration allied to individuals’ capacity for strokes of genius.
We should do this in our own companies. Think ‘collaborative creativity’ at all times. This will involve celebrating the creativity of everyone, and rewarding those who facilitate creativity in others. Creativity is no longer reserved by a select precious few. Egos and sensitivity have no place.
Strip out the hierarchy from creative ideating
Creativity is not hierarchical. Leaders have to get the message across to all that there’s no right or wrong. Indeed, ‘wrongs’, in the sense of mistakes or completely ‘out there’ or subversive ideas, can lead to rights in the shape of spectacular breakthroughs. Strip out the hierarchy from creative moments.
Recognise that creativity feeds off diversity
Bring members of different teams together. The combination of what I call ‘differently shaped brains’ can bring about breakthroughs. Or simply a fresh pair of eyes, even if those eyes are not ‘expert’ in the department they’re being asked to look at.
Encourage difference in your teams
The more people can express their true personalities and backgrounds, the more kaleidoscopic the creative overlap between team members. And just because you’re not ‘classically’ creative (someone recognised as such in their career, or who recognises themselves as such) does not put you at a disadvantage. In fact, it might actually be a boon. Creativity needs to come out of nowhere, and it might just be that you have a deep, abundant well if you’ve rarely tapped into it before!
Protect and nurture creativity
Don’t try to manage creativity – manage the things around it. Protect it as it is happening from such things as admin and efficiency considerations, from tracking and organisation and structure (especially, ironically, when that structure is put in place ostensibly to facilitate creative collaboration); and, as far as possible, protect the fruit of that creativity from the approval/sign-off process.