Why creativity isn't just for creatives and how to find it anywhere

July 23, 2021 - 17 min read

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What is creativity in the workplace?

Why is fostering creativity crucial for your company?

5 benefits of employees being creative in the workplace

Is there room for creativity in all workplace roles?

How to increase creativity in workplace environments

5 examples of creativity in the workplace

Fostering innovation and creativity in the workplace

Increased creativity in the workplace leads to positive outcomes. That includes things like increased job satisfaction and reduced absenteeism.

But in some career fields, it might be hard to see how you can incorporate creativity into your daily tasks.

You might be a tax accountant or a security guard. How can you start fostering creativity in those types of careers?

Thankfully, creativity doesn’t just involve things like painting or writing a novel. There are ways to increase creativity in workplace settings for nearly every kind of job.

Let’s discuss why fostering creativity in the workplace is so crucial and how to do it.

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What is creativity in the workplace?

For some jobs, it might not be immediately obvious how they could incorporate creativity into their work. However, creativity in the workplace is more important than you might imagine.

In fact, 94% of hiring managers say it’s important to consider creativity when evaluating a job candidate.

So what does creativity in the workplace look like, exactly?

When you imagine creativity, you probably think of things like music, artwork, or stories. But it’s much more than that. Creativity is a mindset.

Creativity means thinking outside of the box, combining resources in new ways, and coming up with ideas or solutions that might not be obvious to others.

Cultivating a beginner’s mind can help open you up to new ways of solving problems or completing your work more efficiently. Creative people are always asking questions and looking for new and better ways of doing things.

Creative ideas can be unconventional and unorthodox. That can make some people uncomfortable. But sometimes, a fresh way of looking at things is exactly what you need in the workplace.

In competitive industries, creativity is what keeps your company moving forward.

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Why is fostering creativity crucial for your company?

Some of the top reasons for job dissatisfaction include a lack of interest, a lack of meaningful work, or feeling like you aren’t being heard. Enabling creativity can help alleviate these issues.

Imagine a company where you simply go to your cubicle or workspace every day and do repetitive tasks. You're measured on how many of them you get done. It might be nice to feel competent at your job. It might feel mind-numbing. It probably doesn't feel like you have time or opportunity for creativity.

You can run into similar problems when working from home. It can feel like you’re living the same day over and over, okay, but without any creative outlet.

Contrast that with a job where you can use your resourcefulness and creativity to solve problems or come up with better approaches. Maybe you pitch creative ideas to management, and some of them actually get implemented. Or maybe you get to test out creative ideas without first pitching to management. 

What if your boss encouraged you to think outside the box, be curious, and take risks? How much happier and more empowered would that make you feel? How much more interesting would work be? 

Applying creative thinking to our work can help to make it more meaningful and engaging. Creative thinkers feel like they’re active participants in their jobs instead of just cogs in a machine.

One study by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence relates to this. It showed that how employees perceive their supervisor can influence creativity and innovation in their work

Supervisors described as emotionally intelligent help to foster creativity in the workplace. They provide more opportunities to grow and learn.

Creativity-promoting work environments are those that:

  • Are intellectually challenging
  • Offer sufficient resources
  • Have greater degrees of freedom
  • Encourage innovative thinking
  • Are receptive to new ideas
  • Provide support
  • Trust their employees

Creativity in the workplace statistics

At BetterUp, we see members who receive coaching demonstrate a 10% improvement on our Innovation Index after about three months. The innovation index is essentially a measure of creativity in the workplace. 

Our research shows that a higher score on the innovation index is related to greater job satisfaction and job performance. It also is related to a decreased intent to leave the organization.

Here’s what one BetterUp user had to say:

“I use creativity and empathy to problem-solve in my team. By understanding [different] perspectives...and by approaching the solution with out-of-the-box thinking, problems are easier to solve, and the solutions are more inclusive.”

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5 benefits of employees being creative in the workplace

Fostering creativity in your workplace comes with a wide variety of benefits. Let’s take a look at five of the most impactful:

1. Creativity builds better teamwork

The creative process encourages employees to collaborate, so they’re more likely to work together. One person may be able to come up with new ideas. However, it will take an entire team to make them a reality.

A workplace culture that instills a strong sense of belonging will naturally produce more creativity.

2. Creativity reduces workplace stress

Studies have shown that engaging in creativity induces positive health effects in people. Benefits include a reduction in cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the human body's main stress hormone. It works with your brain to control fear, motivation, and mood.

Importantly, a person's level of artistic experience doesn't seem to impact the benefits of creativity. People see the same decrease in cortisol levels when doing creative activities regardless. Everyone can be creative.

3. Creative workplaces are more likely to attract and retain employees

We know from what we’ve talked about so far that creativity makes people happier at work. 

So it’s no surprise that employees will feel better and more invested in their jobs when they’re given the ability to be creative.

This makes employees more loyal to the company. Their positive experiences also get reflected externally to job candidates. Employees talk to friends and post online about their positive workplace experiences. 

Wouldn’t you like to work for a company that’s known to foster creativity and innovation?

4. Creativity allows for better problem-solving

A big part of creativity is being able to think outside of the box.

A creative workplace gives employees the ability to come up with unique solutions to challenges instead of simply being told what to do.

Many employees will gladly offer up ideas to improve processes and help make the business more efficient if they’re given the option.

5. Creativity makes employees more motivated

Allowing for creativity gives employees more ownership of their job duties and responsibilities. It also increases their sense of agency. This can make them more motivated.

A creative company doesn’t necessarily mind how you come to a conclusion or achieve a result. Obviously, you don’t want your employees to cut corners or do anything unethical. 

But there are often multiple ways to accomplish any given task. And the team members who spend the most time working on that task are likely the ones who know which approach is best.

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Is there room for creativity in all workplace roles?

Not all jobs seem like they offer much room for creativity.

There are definitely some that allow for more creativity than others. But nearly every job has room for creativity. 

Creativity doesn’t have to be about artistic expression. Developing new practices, making a workflow more efficient, or finding a better way to do things are all examples of creative thinking.

 

How to increase creativity in workplace environments

Now that you know the benefits of adding creative opportunities to the workplace, let’s take a look at five ways you can actually do that:

1. Design your office space with creativity in mind

An open-space office design will naturally allow for more creativity and collaboration. This is especially true when compared to one that separates people with cubicles and walls. 

Try to provide more opportunities for teammates to interact and collaborate with each other. Brainstorming is a lot easier when you can just walk over to a teammate’s desk.

2. Create a more inclusive environment

Too often, the workplace gets split with artificial separations and hierarchies.

You might not get a chance to really interact with anyone outside of your department. And in some companies, managers can feel difficult to approach.

Creating a more welcoming environment helps make for easier collaboration. Collaboration and better teamwork are essential for creative innovation. When people feel safe and that they belong, they’re more open to collaborating.

However, it isn't just about feeling safe or encouraged. The other key element is having transparency to what matters most to the organization at the moment and having access to data, information, and resources to better understand problems and opportunities.

The old-school view of management is typically one of an autocratic management style. It’s very top-down and almost military-like in structure. There is a strong element of controlling and micromanaging, not just workers but information.

However, this management style can stifle creativity and innovation.

Many managers worry about giving their employees potentially time-wasting activities. This includes something like a “watercooler” channel on Slack or Microsoft Teams. But these sorts of outlets can make teammates more productive and satisfied with their jobs.

3. Diversify your team

One study by BCG showed that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue.

Diversity isn’t just great for the company’s bottom line, though. It creates a better experience and a more creative workplace for the entire team. Having an inclusive leader makes team members more likely to feel like they belong.

A diverse team of employees brings all sorts of unique and innovative ideas from their lived experiences to the table. In turn, you’ll get a wide range of different points of view.

4. Turn failures into learning opportunities

A creative workplace doesn’t discourage people from trying their best and failing. Failure is a natural part of taking risks and trying something new.

 If employees feel like they’ll be penalized for mistakes or that it'll lead to conflict, they’re less likely to undertake creative activities.

It might seem like allowing for failure hurts productivity in the short term. But in the long run, the opportunities for growth and innovation usually outweigh the risks.

5. Allow for knowledge sharing

Your employees might have skills and talents that you aren’t even aware of. If these aren’t explored, they’ll just sit unused.

An employee who is particularly knowledgeable about Excel could teach a lunch and learn. That way, they can show everyone else the basics. 

Another employee might teach a lesson on how to most effectively use LinkedIn.

Someone else might be a yoga teacher in their off-time and can teach a relaxation or meditation class to the organization.

It’s hard to know what kind of untapped potential currently exists in your company. That’s why doing things like creating a more inclusive environment where these kinds of conversations can occur is critical.

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5 examples of creativity in the workplace

To help you get an idea of what creativity in the workplace looks like, let’s look at five examples:

  1. Artistic creativity. This includes things that we traditionally consider to be creative endeavors, like drawing a logo or writing a company newsletter.
  1. Creativity in STEM fields. This includes things like writing computer code, designing a company website, or creating a robot in order to automate a work task.
  1. Creative problem-solving. When someone uses this type of creativity, it may not seem like they’re creating anything.

But creative solutions can help solve some of your organization’s most challenging problems. This includes everything from cutting costs in a budget to assembling furniture.

  1. Effective research. This includes performing specific research on any task or problem. It could be something that a particular employee, department, or the entire organization deals with. 

For example, this could be evaluating a new piece of software for your company and considering alternatives.

  1. Social media strategy. Creativity is necessary to set your organization’s communications apart from competitors. 

Make sure to use creativity to brainstorm and design posts that your brand’s followers respond best to. This also involves optimizing for the best times and platforms to post to.

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Fostering innovation and creativity in the workplace

Encouraging and cultivating creativity in the workplace is a win-win-win situation. It’s something that helps everybody.

Companies benefit from innovation and creativity in the workplace in terms of their bottom line. 

Managers get a happier, more engaged and passionate team with more job satisfaction. 

And employees are better able to do their jobs, express themselves, and discover additional layers of passion and meaning in their work.

BetterUp can help your organization foster a company culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion

A sense of belonging is key when trying to improve creativity in the workplace. Request a demo and let us help drive culture change across your organization.

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Published July 23, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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