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How to encourage creativity and innovation in the workplace

It is difficult to find a moment in history in which the circumstances in the market have been so changing. The emergence of new technologies, social changes, the need for products and services that did not exist just a decade ago, international conflicts, legislative changes... all of this directly affects companies.

We are in a highly changing environment, and the Companies must be able to quickly adapt to these changes. and look for ways to stand out from the competition. To achieve this, your most effective “weapon” is your employees and the skills and abilities they have. Specifically, when it comes to achieving rapid and precise adaptation to a highly competitive and changing environment, creativity and innovation they can become vital. 

A new challenge now arises for the Human Resources department: fostering a work environment that promotes and values the creativity and innovation of its employees at all levels of the organization.

This implies that it is necessary to offer development and training opportunities in these subjects, and create a work environment that encourages experimentation, continuous learning and interdisciplinary collaboration.

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It is clear that companies should encourage the development of their employees in these two soft skills How essential they are today. But, to adopt effective strategies, the first thing that is needed is to be clear about what we are talking about when we refer to these terms.

Creativity is the ability of employees to generate new ideas. A way of thinking that is different from the usual, that breaks with the conventional approach, and thus manages to find the solution to challenges and problems that may not have previously appeared in the work environment. 

Innovation is one more step in creativity, because it means implementing those new ideas that have been generated. It implies taking action and achieving tangible results. 

If the idea was good and the innovation process has also been good, the result is an improvement in production processes, decision-making, sales, etc. Because creativity and innovation are not limited to a certain department or to certain roles within the organization, but are necessary in the entire hierarchical structure and in all areas of work.

An important aspect to keep in mind is that creativity and innovation do not always lead to great changes or revolutionary ideas. In fact, in most cases, it is the implementation of simple but innovative ideas that is achieving progress that, little by little, becomes significant.

How can a company encourage creativity and innovation in its employees?

Create an open and trusting environment

Creativity can only develop properly in environments where employees feel free to share their ideas. Rest assured that they will not be judged or ridiculed for it.

It is the responsibility of the company to promote open communication at all levels, but also to ensure that there is an active listening to the employees by those who must make the decisions. This leads to a mutual respect that manages to create that environment of trust that is necessary for everyone to express themselves without fear.

Logically, not all ideas are going to give rise to an innovation, but it should also be publicly recognize the effort made by those who have dared to take a step forward and present their idea.

Dedicate time and space to creativity

The best way for new ideas to emerge is for employees to be able to spend part of your day working on your creative skills and try what comes to mind.

This is something that big companies like Google. The company applies the 80/20 method, in which its workers must dedicate 80% of their weekly workday to doing the tasks of their job position, and the other 20% can be dedicated to working on innovative projects that are of personal interest. In any case, devoting time to creativity is always something optional for the employee, since it cannot be forced.

The results of this way of working could not have been more positive, because thanks to it, tools such as Gmail or improvements to Streetview have emerged.

In order to make things easier for those who wish to create and innovate, the company must offer a space for it. For example, making meeting rooms available to employees so they can work as a team on innovative projects.

Foster diverse teams and collaboration

On some occasion we have already talked about how important the miscellaneous equipment for the companies. As the workforce is made up of people with different backgrounds, training, way of thinking, etc., the way of working becomes more effective. Because it is easier to reach solutions that a team made up of more homogeneous profiles would not be able to see.

The creation of diverse teams occurs, mainly, through the selection of personnel. But you can also create these through the Fostering collaboration between people and teams who don't normally work together.

Something as simple to organize as a brainstorming session involving employees from different departments can result in a good number of ideas that could be put into practice with a probability of success.

Offer training in creativity and innovation

There are people who have highly developed creativity innately, but in others it is not so perceptible. However, all human beings are creative, it is a skill that comes with us and that we can develop.

In this sense, companies that seek to have more creative and innovative employees should not hesitate to offer training in this area. Workshops can be given on creative thinking techniques, or about Innovation Management. 

Stimulate a thought that is out of the conventional

Employees are often not as creative as they could be because they are not presented with any challenge that requires putting their creative ability into action. This can be solved by stimulating the generation of unconventional ideas.

For example, by inviting workers to investigate on their own how an artificial intelligence tool could help them perform their tasks more effectively, or to investigate emerging trends in the market.

It is not a question of "giving homework" to the employees, who have enough with their daily obligations inside and outside of work, but of propose challenges that can be assumed voluntarily.

The objective is take them out of their comfort zone in terms of creativity. That they see the need to apply techniques such as lateral thinking or disruptive thinking to find a solution to the dilemma that has been posed to them.

Recognize and reward creativity

A good way to get employees to be creative and embrace the philosophy of innovation is to acknowledge their readiness for it, even reward it. For example, by establishing a program that offers awards to employees who contribute the most to the development of the organization through their ideas or innovations.

Compensation with money can be a comparative injury with the rest, so it is recommended to offer other types of rewards, such as a weekend at a spa, or a ticket for the theater. 

stimulate feedback

Perhaps the idea contributed by an employee does not offer the solution that is being sought for a certain problem, but it could be the seed from which the way to solve it emerges.

It will be easier for this to happen if the company makes channels available to its staff members in which everyone can share their ideas and receive suggestions and feedback. In this way, thanks to everyone's collaboration, a simple idea can evolve little by little until it becomes something important.

Celebrate constructive failure

Some ideas put into practice do not give good results, but that does not mean that the effort made should not be valued. 

The culture of creativity and innovation in the company must be based on the fact that mistakes can be made, and nothing happens. In fact, every failure will be celebrated as a constructive failure: It hasn't gotten us where we wanted to be, but we've learned something from it that will allow us to keep moving forward. 

In the face of failure, leaders must encourage their subordinates to reflect on what happened and extract learning from the entire process.

Creativity and innovation are two sides of the same coin, because they are closely linked. Now we know how important they can be for companies, and what they can do to have more creative and innovative workers in their workforce.

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