Solving Workplace Problems with a Culture of Creativity – 10 Strategies

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workspaceIf you ever have the opportunity to visit Google or Facebook headquarters, you will “smell” it. You will smell it, taste it, hear it and feel it. It is the vibe of creativity all around you. It’s people meeting in a green space outside; it’s informal discussions taking place in any of the numerous “food and watering holes;” it’s the open space and the happiness. You may not have an organization this large, but you do have an organization. And that organization can take a lesson from these giants. Create an environment and a culture in which people feel free to move about and talk, to engage their creative sides, and to propose solution ideas that may be way out of the box but that can be refined and made valuable.

Here are 10 ways to support creativity in your workplace.

1. Tear Down Those Walls

Whether they are physical or figurative, walls separate people. The current jargon is “teams.” Organizations have teams of people that are nothing more than the departments of traditional organizations. Teams have their areas of focus and are put together based upon skill sets of their members. That’s fine to a point, but it is also limiting. How often is a member of one team exposed to the problems that another team faces? Are there opportunities for this type of cross-team collaboration?

2. Have a Problem Board

This can be digital or physical, but the latter often works better. What are some problems that your various teams are trying to solve? Is there a “rule” that says everyone in the organization should not know about them? When you invite everyone to participate in the problem-solving activities of everyone else, you invite people’s creativity to come forth.

3. Every Idea Has Worth no Matter What the Source

When this is the environment of an organization, problems really do get solved. Once, in a large high school, the principal was having a difficult time scheduling lunch times so  that all students could be given a 20-minute lunch period in crowded conditions. In a faculty meeting before the school year began, he asked teachers for their ideas. No one had anything to offer that would solve the problem. Later that day, a custodian stopped by the principal’s office. He had been cleaning during the faculty meeting, heard the problem, and thought he might have a solution. He did, and it worked. No matter where an idea comes from, it must be valued, and it may come from the least expected source.

4. Reward Creativity

That janitor received a bonus. The principal went to the superintendent and requested it be taken out of his budget. It was done. That reward was made public within that school through a presentation at the next faculty meeting. Guess what that did? It inspired others to engage. Now, when there is a problem to be solved, everyone is looking for creative solutions.

5. Support Play

It is often in those moments when we are not focusing on a problem that a solution bubbles up. Furthermore, if a play is planned and scheduled regularly, people across teams connect with one another. Have play opportunities at the workplace, as well. Things like Legos and play dough allow break times that can stimulate creativity.

6. Brainstorming Sessions

When an entire organization’s staff can participate in a brainstorming session, one idea can stimulate another and so on. The more people involved, the more creative such a session can become.

7. Rotate Team and Department Members

An organization that has a permanent policy of rotating team members, even for short periods of time, will find that just by placing themselves in a new and different environment, people find their creativity being stimulated. Sometimes a staff member who enters that different environment can also see a solution that those who are always in that environment cannot.

8. Give Homework

As stated earlier, it is often when people are not focused on their work and a problem at hand that they can come up with a creative solution. When a problem arises, throw it out there for everyone to think about over the weekend, not just those directly impacted by it.

9. Support Music and Art in the Workplace

Music and art are creative activities and can often stimulate creativity in other areas of thought. Having an area in the workplace for such activities will allow workers to take a break, draw or paint, play the piano or a guitar, and activate their creativity.

10. Embrace Flexibility

Rigidity in the workplace does not foster creative problem-solving. Gone are the days where individuals arrive at 8 in the morning, go to their cubicles or offices, remain there until lunch, and go back until 5 that evening. Employees need to move, to communicate, to collaborate, to take a break with one another, and to get outside. Companies are finding that when that flexibility is allowed and encouraged, employees are more productive and more creative.

Workplace environments are changing. From the dress code to flexible work hours, to cross pollination for team members, to relaxation opportunities, to play, work is becoming a far more inviting place to be. When employees have less rigid environments, their thinking is less rigid. Likewise, less rigid thinking results in creative problem solving.

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Author: Joline Wikander

Joline Wikander is studying social sciences at Columbia University. You can find more of her posts on the educational blog.

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