Encourage creativity in your teams: top three tips

Managers and entrepreneurs can successfully increase team creativity by creating a dedicated innovation culture. Top 3 tips here.   

It is pretty much a given that team creativity is positively linked to innovation.

More than one study has shown that teams which can develop ideas and solutions provide new opportunities for their company or organization. To make sure your team(s) are as imaginative and original as possible, here are the top three tips to creating a culture of creativity.

 

1. All thoughts, comments, and ideas welcome

There needs to be authentic acceptance of anything a team member suggests or says. True brainstorming means carefully considering every single thought, comment, or idea. When any kind of genuine creativity is offered, it should never be answered with negativity. If someone is going to get shot down when they speak up, why bother? After all, there is no shortage of proof that the silliest idea could inspire the greatest breakthrough. (Up for some humor? Read more about 18 highly successful “silly ideas” described in witty ways.)

 

2. Flexibility in “who, where, and how”

A recent article in the New York Times online pointed out that teams are often multi-generational. With these age differences can come distinct, working style variations. While not 100 percent, surveys show that there are definite generational preferences. Catering to these preferences can make or break a team’s creativity.

Let’s consider a few of these variations…

Collaboration or Individual effort?

Some team members prefer to start the creative process in groups; others alone. While there will most likely have to be collaboration at some point, the initial spark might not need to be created with others.

Brainstorming location?

There are teammates who feel the most creative in the office, and those who do their best innovating while working at home. Agreeing to different locations also implies a more flexible timetable. For example, team members who work at home could choose any time of the day or night to put in their brainstorming hours.

How is the creative content submitted?

The team member could say it out loud during a meeting, with someone taking notes. The idea could also be submitted in writing, a voice message, or as a video and then shared with the other teammates.

In sum… by offering team members the flexibility that suits their generational cultures, the overall creativity of the team is likely to increase.

 

3. Provide constraints + enabling dynamics

Brent Rosso, a researcher at Montana State University, USA studied four teams:

  • the large team whose project related to a “groundbreaking new coating material”
  • a smaller team which were tasked with developing “a new material with unique chemical and physical properties to be used in a healthcare application”
  • a medium-sized team which were in the middle of developing “an electronics interface for consumer electronics”
  • another medium-sized team whose focus was “a novel software development project”

 

Rosso found that a combination of constraints + enabling dynamics gave the best possibility for creativity.

Constraints

Rosso identified two categories of constraints: process and product. Process constraints involve time, equipment, human resources, and money. Product constraints refer to product requirements, customer and market needs, business needs, and intellectual property issues.

Enabling dynamics

This factor involved five categories: collaboration, communication, task structure, leadership, and the social environment. There needed to be authentic collaboration with team members feeling that they were focused on team goals. Healthy tensions and open conversation promoted the optimum communication. The task structure had to incorporate accountability, flexibility, and freedom/autonomy.

Leadership encouraged creativity when it macromanaged rather than micromanaged, insulated the team, gave managerial support, and advocated leadership within the team. Lastly, a cohesive social environment emphasizing similarity and including humor, playfulness, and trust gave the most creative productivity.

Operative conclusion

Rosso explained his results in the following way. The constraints add an element of tension to the creative process. This tension is essentially a paradox. On the one hand, teams feel that constraints limit them, taking away some freedom. On the other hand, these boundaries give the creative process a healthy structure.

Teams with enabling dynamics appeared to have a better collective awareness and grasp of the pros and cons of constraints. They understood the “freedom-structure” continuum and were better able to use this understanding for better creativity.

So, get rid of the cookie cutters.

If team creativity ever was a cookie cutter culture, it is one no longer. Team members must be sure that all their genuine contributions will be appreciated in an authentic and positive way.

Since a team can be made up of generationally different individuals, their working style preferences need to be taken into account operationally.

Constraints and enabling dynamics should be part of the creative process. The constraints provide needed structure while the enabling dynamics give teams the understanding to see the constraints as valuable and cope well with them.