Q: How can I create a culture of organizational creativity?
A: Fostering organizational creativity requires making creativity a strategic priority.
Making time to generate ideas or think is seen as a luxury or something that’s done during annual planning or in a crisis. Organizations that have creative cultures dedicate time to generating new ideas.
Fostering organizational creativity requires a mix of employees who think differently.
That’s needed if you want to encourage the type of debate and discussion that drives creativity, but you also need to manage the process.
People need to learn how to disagree without taking it personally; easier said than done. By first understanding variety in thinking styles, people can respect differences of opinions and realize the necessity of generating “creative abrasion,” if they want to get good ideas. Abrasion is used to polish, and ideas are no different.
We have a tendency to hire a person that we are comfortable with because they are like us, which is known as the comfortable clone syndrome. It’s a creativity killer in an organization because you don’t get the diversity of thinking styles that you need for creative abrasion.
You also need to hire for what is known as intrinsic motivation, or people that are motivated by the work itself vs. the bells and whistles that may come with the job.
Intrinsic motivation is the key factor in creating organizations that have high levels of innovation.
If you want existing employees to be more creative, avoid micromanaging them. Instead, give them a challenge with a goal and have them come back with ideas.
Provide incentives for creativity. They don’t have to be huge, but when creative effort is put forth it should be recognized and encouraged. The same goes for resources. We all have limitations when it comes to budgets and time; so, don’t ask for the impossible.
Match employee skill with challenge. If people aren’t challenged, they become bored, and when they don’t have the skills for the challenge they get frustrated.
Try including your employees in the process by asking them what they would do to foster more organizational creativity. That might be the best first step, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Glenn Karwoski is on faculty at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.