7 Simple Ways to Stimulate Creative Thinking in Your Employees

Keith Krach
January 9, 2017

No modern business can move toward success in a post-digital world without putting a focus on creativity in its operations. Creativity is at the heart of innovation—a key element of a successful business in a market that puts a focus on the development of new technologies and practices. But in order to build a company that prioritizes creativity, the process has to start with the employee mindset. Listed below are seven ways to encourage and stimulate creativity in your employees, in order to get the future you want for your company.

1. Tell your team that you value creativity.

One of the simplest things that any business leader can do in order to encourage his or her staff to think creatively is to lead by example. Be upfront and clear about the fact that you want to make a place for creativity within your operations. Many companies that operate on traditional models of business create a culture that fears creativity because it is difficult to quantify. Throw out antiquated ideas about measuring creativity and focus on cultivating an environment within your company where your staff feels comfortable discussing and proposing innovative ideas.

2. Be forward about asking for ideas.

Reinforce the idea that your company supports creative thinking by actively seeking out ideas from your staff. Consider having a conversation with your employees about the challenges that your company is facing and openly solicit ideas to solve them. Additionally, consider adopting an open door policy, keeping in mind that a great idea can surface at any time and may not always pop up during a formal brainstorming meeting. However you choose to extract ideas from your staff members, don’t forget to make it fun. Placing too many expectations on your staff to deliver creatively can actively hinder the creativity that you’re trying to bring out.

3. Set aside time for brainstorming sessions.

Brainstorming sessions often elicit a negative initial response from employees, but when done correctly, they can yield positive creative results. To orchestrate a successful bout of brainstorming, go into the process with an open mind. Make sure to convey that brainstorming sessions are a time for the free exchange of ideas and not to make final decisions, and set a time limit on how long the meeting will be. Encourage your employees to record thoughts and ideas during the session on paper and reflect on them after the fact. Then, hold a follow-up meeting to talk about the ideas formulated individually. Additionally, consider encouraging your employees to leave the office setting prior to or during a brainstorming session. Short breaks outside of the workplace can help your staff look at ideas from new vantage points.

4. Support your employees through success and failure.

Much like innovation, creativity requires risk to be effective. However, risk by nature invokes the threat of failure, and leaders who want to foster creativity in their company must be upfront about supporting their employees in successful endeavors as well as unsuccessful ones. The leaders who inspire the most creativity in their staff members first learn to give employees the confidence to voice and apply unconventional ideas. This not only leads to higher levels of innovation within a company, but also increases overall employee satisfaction.

5. Establish diverse teams.

Collaboration is an important practice in the digital age, but bringing creativity out in employees as a group can be challenging. Creative idea generation as a team can be highly effective, but it takes work to make it happen. One of the most important elements of forming effective creative teams is putting diverse groups of people to work on the same task. Put employees together who differ in areas like personality type, professional experience, and personal background. The more diversity there is within a group of people, the wider the scope of ideas that group will be capable of imagining.

6. Encourage radical thinking.

One the most effective things that a leader can do to encourage creativity in his or her employees is also the simplest. Leaders should never shame, ridicule, or admonish an employee for suggesting a creative idea, no matter how outlandish it seems. Scorning poor ideas, especially in front of a group, signals to your team that taking chances has negative consequences, and discourages creative suggestions in favor of safer, less innovative ones. To bring this creativity to the surface, encourage your staff members to think radically and voice all ideas, no matter how unconventional they seem. You don’t have to follow every wacky idea, of course, but your staff should at least feel comfortable suggesting them.

7. Don’t let good ideas sit in limbo.

The most important thing to remember about fostering creativity in the workplace is to take action when a great idea reveals itself. Allowing an employee’s functional creative idea to sit in limbo not only holds your company back from growth, but signals to all employees that their creative efforts may go to waste, resulting in a lack of enthusiasm for innovative thinking. Keep creativity flowing within your workplace by running with great ideas and showing your employees that their contributions to the company have a real impact on its future.

Keith Krach

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