Why leaders should care about creativity in the workplace

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In the world of art, media, and entertainment, the importance of creativity is a given. But in business, where does creativity rank among desired traits?

Within today’s often cutthroat corporate landscape, creativity plays an integral role. It’s how companies differentiate themselves from the competition. It’s what leads people to think up breakthrough ideas. It’s where leaders discover fresh ways to solve problems.

According to the World Economic Forum, creativity is (or is related to) nine of the top 10 skills that global executives say are essential for the 2020’s Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Creativity isn’t just a talent for self expression or an ability to see things from a different perspective. It involves habits, actions, and a mindset shift that allows people to quickly spot opportunities, connect invisible dots, or imagine a future that defies expectations.

Together, this drives the type of innovation that 84% of CEOs believe is critical to growth.

Case in point: In 1997, Steve Jobs embraced creativity to inspire Apple’s rebirth as an industry leader. It’s also what allowed him to set a higher standard for product-design innovation and led Jobs to launch his own smartphone category only a decade later. 

Creativity can also transform your business, once you’ve set the precedent to follow.

Helping your team harness the power of creativity

Everyone is (or can be) creative in their own way. As a business leader, it’s up to you to empower your team to apply creativity to improve processes and overcome challenges. 

Of course, facilitating and normalizing creativity in the workplace is a challenge in itself.

Regardless of industry or business size, many companies remain rigidly structured and resistant to defying the status quo. Giving team members the freedom to be creative in the workplace means showing them how it’s done. To spark more creativity, you should:

  • Create an environment to inspire innovation. To set the tone for experimentation and provide an example for the team, show a willingness for expressing creativity yourself. Share concepts and invite a discussion. Avoid the urge to micromanage or write off raw ideas at the “brain dump” stage, and let team members feel empowered to take risks and explore new directions.    
  • Try to think beyond what’s been done before. It’s people that drive innovation, not processes or systems. To overcome the tendency to systemically follow existing rules or free team members from holding back on suggestions that seem outside the box, let everyone enjoy added flexibility during your collaborative brainstorms.
  • Use a framework to help your team focus. Contrary to what may seem like common sense, creative constraints can actually open up creative thinking rather than hindering it by keeping your team focused on a specific approach to thinking about a problem—rules aren’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, 6-3-5 brainwriting can help your team quickly build out a whiteboard full of good ideas and riff off each other in an organized way. 
  • Challenge self-limiting beliefs on the team. One problem that many leaders face when asking people to generate ideas is doubt in their own creativity. This lack of confidence can cause everyone to suffer. Use your role to observe and determine if anyone needs extra encouragement or coaching to unlock their innovative side. 

Once team members begin to see gradual improvement and become more comfortable with expressing creativity in the workplace, they’ll rise to the occasion and move beyond their initial fears and limitations. With more practice, creativity becomes an innate skill. 

Tactics for further improvement

After a baseline for creativity has been established throughout the team, there are other tactics you can use to inspire more opportunities for innovation and foster cooperation.

To facilitate creativity, Chris Marsh, principal search analyst at 451 Research, suggests visual collaboration: “Some standardized tools can impede creative thinking. The aspect of play within a digital environment makes the work more engaging. Easy-to-use visual components aid in creative problem solving, planning, and brainstorming.” For Marsh, the benefits of a visual environment, like Lucidspark, start with its unstructured canvas.

“To add structure is a creative exercise with an element of play…in this context, it means employees intrinsically engaging with a process of creating or interpreting something.”   

Other benefits related to visual collaboration in a loosely structured template include:

  • Greater adaptiveness to change in the workplace
  • Stronger sense of commitment to a work project
  • More energy and drive to achieve a particular goal 

With its online accessibility and intuitive interface, a virtual whiteboard helps creativity in the context of problem-solving, planning, and brainstorming or more directly creative processes like coming up with new designs for a business proposal or meeting.  

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Empowering your team through creativity 

Equipping teams and individuals with more ownership over how they design their work, orchestrate business processes, or address specific project challenges is empowering.

If you feel that you’re personally not creative enough to increase the level of creativity on your team, take a moment to invest in your own growth. Change your surroundings. Ask questions. Allow for greater vulnerability. And set aside time to think and explore ideas.

Before engaging with team members on your next project, familiarize yourself with the latest tools of visual collaboration and turn those innovative breakthroughs into action.   

Try a Lucidspark template now! 

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Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard that helps you and your team collaborate to bring the best ideas to light. It comes packed with all of the sticky notes, freehand drawing tools, and infinite canvas space you need to capture that next big idea. And it’s built for collaboration. Think of it like a sandbox where your team can bounce ideas around and innovate together in real time.

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