Ten ways to encourage creative thinking

Brainstorming: how to encourage creative thinking in your business

Inspiring greater creativity in your business can help spur innovation. It's about creating a culture in which all employees are actively encouraged to put ideas forward. But how do you get the best from people and help them to be creative?

1. Stress the importance of creativity for the business

Ensure all your staff know that you want to hear their ideas. Make sure they understand how innovation keeps your firm competitive.

2. Make time for new ideas

Allocate time for thinking about different approaches. For example:

  • Set aside time for brainstorming.
  • Hold regular group workshops.
  • Arrange team days out.
  • Give individuals the space to reflect privately on their work.

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3. Actively solicit creative suggestions

Place suggestion boxes around the workplace. Appeal for original ways to solve particular problems. Keep your door open to anyone with new ideas.

Encourage people to work together and share ideas. Individuals within the team can feed off each other - exploring, testing and refining new approaches.

4. Train staff in innovation techniques

Your staff may be unfamiliar with the skills involved in creative problem-solving. Consider training sessions in techniques such as brainstorming, lateral thinking and mind-mapping.

5. Cross-fertilise

Broadening people's experiences can be a great way to kickstart innovation.

  • Short-term job swaps and shadowing in-house can introduce a fresh perspective.
  • Encourage people to look at how other businesses do things, even in other sectors. Consider how different approaches can be adapted or improved.

6. Challenge the way staff work

Encourage employees to keep looking anew at the way they approach their work. Ask people what works well and what doesn't.

7. Be supportive

Respond enthusiastically to all ideas. Never make someone offering an idea, however hopeless, feel foolish. Give even the most apparently outlandish of ideas a chance to be aired.

8. Tolerate mistakes

A certain amount of risk-taking is inevitable with creative thinking. Allow people to learn from their mistakes. Don't put off the creative flow by making employees feel bad about any ideas that don't work out.

9. Reward creativity

Motivate individuals or teams who come up with winning ideas by actively recognising creativity, for example through an awards scheme.

10. Act on ideas

Creativity is only worthwhile if it results in action. Provide the time and resources to develop and implement those ideas that are worth acting upon.

Following through on good ideas is a powerful way of encouraging staff to keep being creative, coming up with more new ideas to improve the business.

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