6 Certain Ways to Kill Creativity at Your Company

Keith Krach
October 20, 2016

“Creative” may not be a word that the mind traditionally associates with business, yet it has a significant impact on the success of companies around the world. This is especially true in the digital age, which is driven by rapid and ongoing innovation.

Apart from generating original products and services, workplace creativity also leads to efficiency. Once just an option in the workplace, creativity now plays a crucial role in a firm’s ability to adapt to the quickly-changing needs of a consumer market that demands near-instant access to brands.

Hiring creatively-minded employees for your startup is especially crucial. However, many startup leaders are unaware that they are inadvertently stifling their company’s ability to function as a creative entity. Listed below are six ways that you may be killing creativity within your startup.

1. Hire the same person, again and again.

Original ideas will not present themselves if your team is made up of the same type of workers, all of whom have similar backgrounds and skill sets. A staff needs to be diverse in order to thrive creatively. Startup leaders should aim to populate their companies with a collection of people who approach ideas and obstacles from a range of perspectives.

There is even evidence to suggest that bringing people with different backgrounds and skill sets together in a team may lead to better overall group problem-solving and an increased ability to think in a way that is not typical. Having a diverse group of employees will encourage your staff to challenge and question each other, inspiring original, useful thoughts with greater frequency.

2. Control everything.

There is nothing like micromanaging to truly stifle your employees’ creative abilities. Creativity needs freedom and space in order to grow, and the attempt to control or over-supervise your employees as they complete projects leaves no room for it.

Additionally, top creative talent is in high demand among the most innovative companies. Workers who find themselves in a position where they are tightly controlled may be more inclined to leave their roles to find more creative freedom.

It’s important to establish guidelines and provide guidance for startup employees. However, remember to take a step back and trust that you hired talented employees capable of putting out quality independent work.

3. Have rigid expectations.

Creativity is a “soft” skill, not a “hard” skill like computer coding. Attempting to measure and treat creativity as a hard skill is a great way to ensure that it does not reveal itself within your company’s operations.

Startup leaders shouldn’t expect immediate returns on creative work and should remember that creativity requires both time and resources in order to be truly impactful. If workers are expected to perform creatively on a short, fixed timeline with few resources, it can leave them feeling unmotivated and uninspired.

Company leadership should keep this in mind and be sure to have open discussions about realistic timelines and expectations for employees when it comes to the use of creativity in a project.

4. Give the right people the wrong roles.

Startup leaders may put a lot of effort into finding talent that is well-suited to help accomplish the overall goal of a company. Mismatching a talented employee with the wrong role out of convenience or carelessness will have a negative impact on that employee’s ability to produce good creative work.

Delegating tasks, projects, or entire roles to an individual who lacks the crucial skills needed to thrive will hinder creativity and make that employee far less productive. Employees should feel challenged by their roles, but should also be able to produce high quality work within a reasonable timeframe.

5. Discourage without giving detailed feedback.

Because of the loosely-structured nature of creativity, it can be tough for employees to judge how well they are performing for the company. Without feedback from leadership, creative employees may become hesitant about the direction of their work and lose confidence in their ability to contribute meaningfully to projects.

It can also make creative staff feel as though the work that they contribute to the company isn’t useful, leaving them doubtful of the future of their position. Startup leaders should give constructive criticism when due, and recognition when earned, in order to guide creative employees toward a work path that best suits company needs.

6. Don’t be supportive or open.

For all the time and energy that goes into the development of creative projects, the results don't always yield the kind of results that you want. However, even when creative work doesn’t have the desired effect, it is still important to support the employees who did the work.

Punishing failures does not motivate employees to do better, it only discourages them from taking risks in the future. Risk itself is crucial to success in the digital age. Be open about the results of projects, but don’t continue to remind employees of past failures. Helping your workers move forward after a setback will put them back on track to churn out their next innovate project, sooner.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.