Creativity is certainly a vital skill that successful leaders need to have. The question is, how do we cultivate creativity while still achieving productivity? As a leader, it is important to create an environment within your team that allows for critical thinking and creative ideas to flow.
How to nourish your team’s creativity, a recent article by Ron Carucci discusses four ways that leaders can help foster a creative environment:
1. Define creativity. Ask any Research and Development organisation and they will tell you how expensive and resource intensive creativity can be. So to avoid this black hole, you and your team need to be very clear about what creativity is and what you are trying to achieve. The creative processes must clearly link to your strategies, your differentiation and your customer’s needs. Without this clarity and linkages, you could well use a lot of resources achieving very little (if anything at all).
2. Balancing the tension. Just as shying away from creative thought can stifle growth, running wild with creativity without keeping commercial considerations in mind can have an adverse effect. This requires leaders to be effective in managing the tensions between creativity and financial and operational practicality. It is no good having the next big thing, if nobody can afford it or there is not a market for it. Finding this balance can be difficult but when the leader is able to create an environment where there is a healthy balance, it fosters creativity that will deliver profitable and sustainable creative processes within your operation.
3. Creativity is a group activity. Creativity is not just an individual activity. In fact, as the article explains, creativity is a social and commercial expertise which requires meaningful collaboration to be truly effective. Leaders need to create working environments that foster a collective approach to creativity in which individuals can effectively collaborate to create. Such an environment provides a safe place where team members can share ideas without fear of judgement and ideas and concepts can be challenged freely but respectfully. Then the leader needs to role model these supportive behaviours.
4. Support without constraints. Being creative is unpredictable, fails to follow set processes and procedures and can be untidy. The quandary leaders face is how much structure and order is enough without being limiting. Leaders need to be clear about the objectives, timelines and resources available and then release the team to create.
Leaders need to balance their own participation in creative activities by ensuring they are not hindering the process by imposing their experience, ideas or concepts onto the team. In fact, it is suggested that leaders take off their ‘leader’s hat’ when participating in a creative process and encourage the team members to treat their ides as any other idea under consideration.
Balance seems to be the common concept in this article. The balance between fostering a supportive and engaging creative space that encourages freedom of ideas and debate but in a focused manner. There’s also that ever present need to create balance between the big picture and the immediate bottom line.