People have preconceived notions about what creativity is and tend to associate it with jobs such as product development. But Equatex’s HR Consultant, Julie Grauel, argues that there are opportunities for everyone to be creative in the workplace; it requires a change of mindset on both the part of the individual and the business. When employees are encouraged to be creative, it will lead to more innovative solutions and increased engagement.
Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas and discover new ideas, new solutions and new processes. I believe that creativity can be defined as the process one goes through to come up with innovation, so for me, innovation is really the product of creativity.
Managers often tell their employees they need to be innovative and expect it to happen automatically. But creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is like a plant; for a plant to thrive, it needs fertile soil, water and sunshine, and if one of those elements is missing, the plant won’t grow. Creativity needs the right environment to flourish, one where people are supported and encouraged to think differently.
Creativity needs the right environment to flourish, one where people are supported and encouraged to think differently
- Julie Grauel
When people are not accustomed to something, it requires a change in behaviour and changing behaviour requires a change in mindset. People associate creativity with the arts, but being creative isn’t just about painting or writing; it’s about new ideas and thoughts. There is a need for both individuals and businesses to change their mindset about what creativity is. We accept that creativity is part of an architect’s role, whereas we don’t automatically associate accountants with creativity. I think there are opportunities for everyone to be creative, regardless of their job.
Creativity isn’t only about new ideas; it can also be expressed in how we do things. For example, cashiers in a supermarket will carry out their role in a way that is unique to them. The end goal may be the same, but one might be very efficient, one might smile and another might talk to their customers while scanning items. So if we consider creativity as a way to uniquely express ourselves, everyone can be creative, and this approach then creates a unique experience for customers or clients.
There’s no doubt changing your mindset can be challenging. So it’s important to understand and know yourself. People with a fixed mindset believe that they are only as good as their talent or ability; in other words, their intelligence is fixed. They may become frustrated if their ideas don’t initially work and may be put off from trying again. People with a growth mindset see themselves as a work in progress; they take every experience as a learning opportunity.
Being creative requires people to put their ideas out there, and this takes a certain amount of courage and a willingness to expose yourself. People tend to stay within their comfort zone, but they need to confront their fear of failure and voice their ideas. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” When you become aware of an attitude or a belief that isn’t furthering you as a person, you have a choice to either continue down that path or change your behaviour. People need to take action that leads to change and push themselves out of their comfort zone. When a setback occurs, it’s vital to be objective about it and persistent.
Managers also need to support their employees and encourage them to push the boundaries of what they can achieve. Fear of failure stops us in our tracks and it encourages perfectionism; managers must also understand that mistakes will happen and allow room for these. It comes down to allowing your employees to be individuals; in a hierarchical organisation it may be more difficult to challenge assumptions but too much control and compliance can stifle behaviour. It’s so important for employees to be able to express themselves at work; we spend so much of our lives there and if we can’t express ourselves, we as well as the business will inevitably suffer.
If employees and business can change their mindset about what creativity is, and then build an environment in which it is encouraged, the benefits are huge. Creativity in the workplace can lead to more innovative solutions and new products and can help businesses stay ahead of their competitors. What’s more, employees will become happier and more engaged at work.
There’s no better time to start changing mindsets than now. All employees can look at something they do regularly and think about how they might do it differently.
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