August 28, 2023

Tracy Lawrence

Inspiring Creativity in Teams by Tracy Lawrence

What distinguishes a solid, results-oriented team from a transformational one? When teams go beyond the ordinary and venture into innovation and creativity, they can have real impact and drive the business forward in new ways. Organizations that foster a culture of creativity also enjoy significantly higher employee engagement and morale. But inspiring innovation within teams is no easy task, especially in a world in which time constraints and infinite to-do lists can dampen the creative spirit. We recommend several strategies to cultivate creativity and innovation as core values in teams and organizations.

Focus Intentionally on Culture:

The culture of a team often develops accidentally and is rooted in the personalities and relationships of team members. It’s important for leaders to be intentional about developing cultural values that match the goals of the team and the organization. If innovation and creativity are essential to the success of the team, they must become core values of the team culture. Key elements of culture include communication, shared purpose, rewards and punishment, and autonomy. These elements should be evaluated with an eye towards how each may affect the behavior and level of creativity of team members.  

Establish Meetings and Activities With a Creative Purpose:

Gathering team members for brainstorming and ideation meetings communicates a clear message that these are important values for the team. One client held a regular “Bad Ideas Meeting,” in which team members were required to ignore all existing business constraints while solving strategic issues. These meetings were fun and increased engagement across the team. They also resulted in some of the most innovative marketing solutions the organization developed.

Encourage Healthy Risk Taking:

Examine the role of risk taking in your organizational culture. Many established businesses have deeply ingrained norms, policies and practices that discourage trying new approaches at work. A healthy attitude towards experimentation can lead to positive change and a more dynamic work culture. Leaders can hold teams accountable for results while also encouraging them to innovate. Managers should set expectations that are consistent with the experience and capabilities of their team members, while also modeling appropriate risk taking.  Establishing regular check-ins and ways to measure progress can ensure projects don’t get too far off track, while also allowing space for the independence of team members.  

Pay Attention to How Mistakes are Handled:

Innovative work cultures treat mistakes as learning opportunities. In fact, learning can become a core value of a dynamic organizational culture. How an organization handles honest mistakes sends a clear message on the value it places on innovation vs playing it safe. Employees quickly learn what behaviors are rewarded internally, and these messages can have a profound impact on behavior.  

Leaders who want to encourage out of the box thinking can hold post-mortem meetings to examine lessons learned from experimentation. Minimizing the fear of making mistakes can open the channels for more creative thought. In addition, this process can create a deeper connection the work itself.

Make Time for Play:

Creativity does not happen on demand. People need time and space to ruminate on ideas and come up with new approaches to business. In addition, when people have positive experiences and can associate working with fun, they will be more likely to invest more of themselves in their jobs. Team retreats that take employees out of their usual work environment can shift the energy within the group and create new channels of communication. Another easy tactic is scheduling “no meeting” days, which give employees time and space to create and reflect.  

Build a Diverse Team:

We now have a great deal of research proving that the most productive teams consist of a broad diversity of people. Sameness creates comfort, but it does not result in new ways of thinking. The best teams bring together a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. With an environment of mutual respect, people from different backgrounds can learn from each other and build on each other’s ideas. However, it is important to emphasize a culture of inclusion and belonging so that all employees feel a sense of psychological safety.  

Sparking creativity in teams is a multifaceted process that demands deliberate effort from leaders and team members alike. By creating a strong culture that supports risk taking, embraces diversity, and emphasizes play, teams can unleash their full creative potential.

Tracy Lawrence

Founder & CEO - The Lawrence Advisory

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