How to Foster Creativity In A Team Environment

career development leadership development Feb 11, 2011
How to foster creativity in your team

Today's article is a suggestion from one of our readers: 

How do you foster creativity in a team environment?

There are two critical parts to answering this question:

  • Removing Blocks to Creativity
  • Bring Creativity to the Forefront

Before expecting you're team to be flowing with creative ideas you need to remove the blocks: 

  • Fear: The most powerful block of all. Anytime anyone is afraid to take action or speak out because they fear the consequences fear is taking center stage. Fear of what? Ridicule, being perceived as stupid, losing one's job, fear of losing a promotion, smaller pay raise, no bonus. Even if you as a manager are not doing anything to create fear, there may be a culture of fear around you that affects everyone. Anytime anyone is put down, criticized publicly, discriminated against, and so forth the team has reason to believe that something similar could happen to them. As a leader, do what you can to change such a fear based culture in order to foster a creative environment (fear can be a strong motivator to getting things done, but they are usually not creative).  
  • Anger: People feel angry when they are feeling threatened in some way. Creativity is not typically found when you are feeling threatened. In fact the more threatened you fell the more stuck and uncreative you are likely to be.  
  • Resentment: Something failed to go the way you wanted and your feeling are hurt or your feeling anger, bitter or helpless about the situation. When you are feeling resentment are holding on to the past. It is very difficult to focus on being creative in the present moment when we are focusing our energy on the past.
  • Distrust: When you respond to someone's actions or words with fear or anger you are also likely building distrust. You are unable to believe this person is not going to hurt you physically or emotionally, whether they intend to or not. When you don't trust the people around you, say not to laugh at your idea, you are less likely to have creative ideas and also less likely to share them.

What You Can Do

Start by creating a safe environment. As a leader, set the example by praising team members publicly and offering constructive feedback privately. Create an environment where it's ok to take a chance. It's ok to be "messy" or make mistakes (or find ways that fail on you look for the way that succeeds). In fact, making "mistakes" is part of the creative process and they may end up creating an entirely new and unexpected product or revenue stream. Risk taking is essential to the creative process.

Ensure that laughter is mutual at something funning that is said or don't, yet not at the expense of someone.

Ensure time away from work. In order to be creative the mind needs a break. Working 16 hour days usually doesn't lead to creativity. In fact, having quiet, alone time every day is essential to creativity and it's disappearing every day. Some people meditate. Other just do nothing for a while.

Get the team together for some brainstorming. Make a game out of it. It doesn't matter the topic. Pit two teams against each other to see how many uses for apples they can come up with. They might start out with standard uses, like apple pie, but keep the creativity going until they start coming up with ideas like how to build a toy house by carving an apple.

And these are just some ideas you can use. What other creative ideas can you come up with to foster creativity with your team?  I'd love to hear them!

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