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To make a more creative company

The art of getting a more creative company.

1. What do you mean by creativity?
You, like all other leaders, want to see your team come up with ideas that make your business better. Imagine your employees approaching you with three new ideas, how would you react? How would you take care of their contribution? There you have the million dollar question. Creativity is very much about how ideas are received. Your employees need to see that the contributions they make are important and treated with respect, even if you don't intend to make use of the ideas you get. When your employees are creative, they offer their innermost personal sides of themselves and nobody does that more than once if an idea isn't appreciated.

2. Customizing the work environment
New ideas have the peculiarity that they are not appearing exactly when you might want them to appear – especially not if you arrange a meeting in your (boring) conference room and begin to ask people for ideas. That would be like sitting by the lake and asking for fish. Without the right mood, accessories and environment, you get nothing. The entire work must exude creativity. Add colors, images, pictures, magazines of all kinds, large notepads or whiteboards, space for ”thinking walks”, balls to juggle, TV, video games and stress balls to fiddle with. Note that there is a big difference between just playing in the IT-bubble with pinball machines and other fun stuff and actually understanding how creativity really works. Creativity is born from desire.

3. Hire creative employees
When you last recruited, were you looking for creativity then? Or did you like most people hire the employees who would best blend in with the people you already have? When looking at candidates, think of alternative courses to find relevant experiences, education and personalities. If you want to make things happen, you have to be brave. The job market is full of different kinds of skills and people who are willing to try something new.

4. Get everyone involved
Some of your colleagues are certainly not used to thinking about themselves as creative and they don't know how to start being creative. They may not even think they can come up with an idea. Help them a bit by explicitly asking them to present their opinions about everything and everyone. You can also ask questions to meditate on, for example. ”What should the best management be capable of?” Tell all your employees that you want everyone to present as many ideas as they can, but only ideas that haven't already been presented or negative ideas, i.e. an idea that is formulated against another different idea.

5. Find good attitudes
If you want to get creativity, you have more chance of success if you always have good attitudes to the ideas coming in. And this does not only concern you. You need to teach all your employees to embrace ideas from each other. A critiquing atmosphere with negative attitudes stifles all creativity. The art of receiving ideas is to just let them crawl undisturbed into your vicinity, watch and listen intently and then document the content. A demanding or questioning comment can quickly scare away spontaneous free thoughts.

6. Give everyone the same opportunities
One of your employees has a habit of shouting out his/her thoughts, another never speaks his/her mind. For you it's not favorable if any of your employees get to be too dominating. The more people that contribute, the more ideas you get and the better it will be for you. Another side effect you can get from someone taking over too much, is that other employees' freedom of thought is led into a certain distinct thought pattern. Keep your eyes open for these types of problems. If they pop up, this is one of the few situations when you need to take control over creativity.

7. Stimulate people to think
Help your people to think broadly and freely by organizing various types of alternative courses, lectures and seminars. All forms of stimulus interrupting people in the ordinary everyday work can be a good thing, and if you follow it up with discussions about it you can get new creative perspective to your business. Going to the movies together or the theater, concerts, making visits to other companies, inviting a local artist to talk about his creativity or reading a book together and discussing it in groups are good examples.

8. Nothing is wrong
Since spontaneous ideas are ... well, spontaneous and not delivered according to predetermined rules, let your employees know that you appreciate any ideas you may have access to. You also want as many people as possible to participate in the creative process and therefore help generate ideas from anyone reluctant, but who you believe have something to say. Obtaining ideas is one thing, to decide what is good another. Saying “no” to a continuation is an art in itself that you must learn to master. The first rule: wait at least 24 hours before you decline any suggested ideas.

9. Capture ideas as they come
Your employees can get useful ideas at times when they are not expecting them. Creativity is unpredictable and pops up when we least expect it and you have to be ready catch it right away. Tell your employees that they often think creatively without being aware of it. Many ideas pass their thoughts, but without being allowing to grow. Encourage them to always listen to those thoughts and to keep notes on everything that pops up, wherever it does so and not just at work. It's not uncommon for a solution to pop up when you have stopped thinking actively about the problem.

10. It must be worthwhile
Your employees need to know that you and the company really encourages them to be creative. For example, introduce an incentive system that rewards good ideas. Because your employees have no obligation to be creative, you need to show that it always pays off to be creative. The ideas that don't lead to anything can be rewarded with different types of low cost rewards. The ideas that do result in improvements should be felt in their next payment in a very real way.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
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