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When you’re facing a challenge or dilemma, tapping into your workforce’s collective genius could reveal a rich seam of potential solutions.

It is perhaps an understatement to say that over the last year, businesses of all sizes have faced a problem or two. Even in more ordinary times, however, there will be occasions when the leadership team just can’t decide on the best course of action.

When you’ve spent years building up a team of smart, conscientious and knowledgeable employees, it would seem wasteful not to ask for their opinions and input. After all, someone looking from a different perspective could have an innovative solution at their fingertips.

A survey conducted by McKinsey found that although 84% of executives believed that innovation was essential to their company’s growth strategy, just 6% were happy with their innovation performance.* Drawing more creatively on the varied expertise, experience and outlooks found among their workforce could, perhaps, boost that figure significantly.

How do you encourage employees to think creatively?

Like any business skill, thinking creatively can be learned and nurtured. By taking a few steps in key areas – practical, psychological and cultural – you could unleash the hidden heroes in your company.

Three ways to boost creative thinking in the workplace

  1. Put mechanisms in place to enable the sharing of ideas.

Just asking employees to proactively submit ideas about a particular topic may not work, especially with shy staff members or those who aren’t used to drawing attention to themselves.

Brain storming sessions, suggestion boxes (anonymous options can be helpful), team discussions focused exclusively on problem-solving – these can all give employees a useful outlet to encourage sharing. Also, a discussion-based activity could help people to work out ideas more fully as a team and encourage more individuals to give their input.

Keep these sessions low-key and at peer/manager level, at least to begin with, as people may feel uncomfortable sharing their ideas in front of their great-grandboss straightaway.

  1. Create a culture where people feel safe to speak their minds.

Does your company have a history of enabling and welcoming the sharing of ideas? Are staff likely to feel that suggestions will be received respectfully, or have they been shot down in the past for speaking up? If they’ve seen colleagues berated for suggesting “bad ideas” or for challenging the management team’s thought processes, this is unlikely to help when you’re trying to engage them in positive problem-solving.

Businesses only get the privilege of drawing on their employees’ creativity when the management has shown it can be trusted to be supportive, constructive and kind.

  1. Empower your staff to step into leadership roles.

This doesn’t mean that you have to train all your employees as potential managers. However, many of the skills that make people great leaders can be useful even when employees just want to take the lead temporarily. This might mean leading a brain-storming session or outlining their ideas in a meeting.

It can take as much confidence to suggest business ideas to your team as it does to lead that team. So, if you want to make the most of your employees’ creative thinking potential, consider offering some training in leadership skills. Helping them to think like leaders could bring immeasurable benefits for all concerned.

Have you ever implemented an incredible idea from a team member that profoundly changed your business? If so, let us know – we love to hear about creativity in action!


Need a helping hand with your training and development plans?

Working in partnership with you, we provide insight and assistance to help you achieve your development goals. Whether you are looking to gain a better understanding of your training and development gaps, build training plans across multiple teams, or need bespoke training solutions for a particular challenge, we can help identify your options and the solutions available.

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Mark Fryer

15th April 2021

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