What Highly Creative Workplaces Can Teach You

This article is the third installment in a series that explores how applying creative tools and principles in the workplace can help deliver better results and engender positive change. 


Unlike creativity itself, a creative work culture doesn’t just come out of thin air. As mentioned in previous articles, reaping the benefits of workplace creativity requires a commitment from the entire organization and a focus on maximizing everyone’s unique talents

There is no “cookie-cutter” approach to achieving this. From Apple to Google to Facebook, 21st century innovation giants have all had to develop their own principles and procedures to allow creative problem solving to flourish. 

With this in mind, we have assembled a list of suggestions inspired by today’s most productive, creative organizational cultures — many of which we have successfully applied to our own work over the years. We hope that some of them will inspire you to experiment a little bit. 

Balance creative and authoritative leadership 

As with many other workplace changes, injecting more creativity into your organizational DNA starts at the very top. This means that executives and managers must actively demonstrate collaborative behaviours and embrace creative techniques, even in times of stress.

Although some situations call for more top-down assertiveness, generally speaking the key is to strike a right balance between authoritative and creative leadership. A workplace can become more creative, when senior executives and directors exhibit traits from both of the two following columns:

Authoritative Leadership
Creative Leadership
Sustains order
Takes risks
Wants to be right
Welcomes feedback
Avoid mistakes at all cost
Learn from all mistakes
Maybe (can live with ambiguity)
By the book
Can improvise
Approach meetings with purpose and energy

In fast-paced work environments, meetings are often seen as the enemy to creative breakthroughs and innovation. However, there are much more effective ways to conduct them in order to allow them to unleash, rather than stifle creativity.

First, you need to set boundaries by identifying a clear agenda and a firm end time. This will make it easier for attendees to stay sharp and on course, and maintain their energy levels. Plus an emphasis on finding a solution within a limited timeframe can boost creative efforts.

Next, it is important to make meeting participants aware of what is expected of them. Letting them know their role in advance, and that they are encouraged and expected to contribute. This makes it more likely that creative collaboration will occur during the meeting. Also, leaving everyone with concrete, post-meeting “action items” will help avoid confusion and ensure these tasks are tackled right away, and creative solutions come to fruition.

Lastly, it is crucial to keep the meeting positive in order to make the most of face-to-face time. Remind everyone to concentrate on solutions and to save the negative energy and problems for private conversations.

Foster collaboration and cohesiveness

It is often said that good ideas can come from anywhere. That is why having more heads working together on a project usually leads to better, more creative solutions (with the operative word being “together”).

For collaboration to pay its full dividends however, the level of trust among colleagues must be fairly high. This is especially true if some team members are in direct competition for assignments and promotions. Team-bonding activities, shared break spaces and cooperative side projects are therefore all strongly encouraged.

That being said, cohesiveness should not be confused for homogeneity. When hiring, diversity in skills and personalities should be seen as a premium to ensure that the sum of the different parts of your team can become a greater whole. 

Empower everyone to make an impact

Although team leaders are appointed to make the big decisions, there is no reason for them to be making all the decisions. Sharing some of that power with staff members is sure to increase their sense of pride and responsibility. And it will free up managers to apply their expertise to tasks that only they can perform.

Empowering employees also means showing support when they try new things and venture out of their comfort zone. Pushing oneself to be creative is a bit of a leap of faith, which can be scary if no one is there to “catch” you. Consistently providing feedback should help keep your risk-taking colleagues motivated and give them the confidence needed to aim for more innovative solutions.

Break your own rules

When it comes to creativity, rules and process are important. But nothing is more valuable than freedom. So think about rules, formal or habitual, that you may have imposed on yourself over time. Strive to bend or break those rules when faced with a challenge that needs a creative solution.

In future articles, we’ll provide you with some specific tricks and tool to help you and your team do just that, and have a little fun at the same time!


What do you think?

Which of these recommendations could you apply right away to make your own work culture more creative? Can you share any strategies of your own to help workplace creativity flourish? How did you go about making these changes?


The Creative Spark Series is a joint initiative by the MARCOM Professional Development Annual Forum and marketing communications agency Banfield-Seguin, a proud supplier of theme creative for MARCOM 2013. The series promotes the benefits of creativity in the workplace and presents ways to successfully apply creative tools and techniques to inspire, influence and act.

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