Nur­tur­ing cre­ativ­ity in your em­ploy­ees

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Ok­sana Tashakova

DO you know how to nur­ture cre­ativ­ity in your em­ploy­ees? Do you re­alise how im­por­tant this is as a busi­ness strat­egy? Cre­ativ­ity re­searcher Mark Batey ex­plains why you should be con­cerned about this in his ar­ti­cles on Psy­chol­ogy To­day.

Batey de­fines cre­ativ­ity as "the ca­pac­ity within in­di­vid­u­als to de­velop ideas for the pur­pose of solv­ing prob­lems and ex­ploit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties." He de­fines in­no­va­tion as "the ap­pli­ca­tion of cre­ativ­ity to give rise to a new con­cept, prod­uct, ser­vice or process de­liv­er­ing some­thing new and bet­ter to the world."

Can your busi­ness do with­out in­no­va­tion? No busi­ness can. The Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group Strat­egy Sur­vey con­tin­u­ally finds that cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion are strate­gic im­per­a­tives re­ports Batey, and the 2009 Ev­ery­day In­no­va­tion Sur­vey found that ev­ery job in ev­ery in­dus­try re­quires cre­ativ­ity.

A Con­nect­ing In­no­va­tion to Profit study con­ducted by Ernst and Young has found that cre­ative think­ing skills are "di­rectly linked to growth and achieve­ment" and an IBM sur­vey of CEOs has found that cre­ativ­ity is con­sid­ered a more im­por­tant lead­er­ship skill than in­tegrity or vi­sion. Batey quotes one of the Ernst and Young study par­tic­i­pants as say­ing: "We as­sume that 50 per cent of our rev­enue in five years' time must come from sources that do not ex­ist to­day. That is why we in­no­vate." Cre­ativ­ity can be learned and it can be nour­ished says Batey but you might not re­alise that cre­ativ­ity can­not be forced.

"Aha!" mo­ments may seem like they come out of the blue but in re­al­ity, cre­ativ­ity in­volves many brain re­gions, pro­cesses and time. Jonah Lerner, au­thor of "Imag­ine: How Cre­ativ­ity Works" tells NPR in­ter­view­ers that cre­ative in­sights only come when we're not look­ing for them, when we al­low our thoughts to wan­der, when we're seem­ingly un­fo­cused. You can­not chase cre­ativ­ity: you have to al­low it. Cre­ativ­ity oc­curs when our brains con­nect seem­ingly un­con- nected things. Lerner tells the story of how Dan Wieden came up with one of the most suc­cess­ful ad­ver­tis­ing slo­gans: Nike's "Just Do It." Some­one had men­tioned the au­thor Nor­man Mailer to Wieden and at some point in his work, he took a men­tal break and re­mem­bered a line by a Mailer char­ac­ter, a man fac­ing ex­e­cu­tion who said "Let's do it." Wieden was struck by the sen­ti­ment of the re­mark, it's sim­ple brav­ery. He changed one word and had his slo­gan.

Lerner says tak­ing a break can be one of the most pro­duc­tive things you can do. Free time, un­fo­cused think­ing, ac­cess to al­pha waves helps the brain to be cre­ative. Al­pha waves oc­cur when you're re­laxed, not driven.

How can you help such mo­ments to oc­cur among your em­ploy­ees? This may be the most dif­fi­cult thing. We're used to as­so­ci­at­ing work with pres­sure, with dead­lines, with fo­cused and in­tense labour whether it is phys­i­cal or men­tal. How do you feel when you see your em­ploy­ees en­joy­ing some non­work re­lated ban­ter? Or star­ing out the win­dow? Or doo­dling? You're prob­a­bly in­clined to tell them to get to work right? Yet these kinds of ac­tiv­i­ties are just the kind of thing that leads to cre­ative think­ing.

Lehrer says that the most in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies sup­port free time for their em­ploy­ees, they nour­ish a work­place that helps em­ploy­ees to be re­laxed and in a good mood. Sci­en­tific re­search has found that cre­ative think­ing is most likely to oc­cur when peo­ple are re­laxed and happy.

3M, says Lehrer, is one of the most in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies. They have an al­most one to one ra­tio of new prod­ucts and em­ploy­ees. 3M gives their en­gi­neers an hour ev­ery day to do what­ever they want. The em­ploy­ees don't have to jus­tify what they do and this free time fosters cre­ativ­ity.

Steve Jobs, says Lehrer, pur­pose­fully put bath­rooms far away from work ar­eas be­cause he wanted his em­ploy­ees to en­counter oth­ers on their bath­room for­ays. He knew that these ran­dom meet­ings and un­struc­tured time could spark in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity.

On, Me­gan Hus­tad writes about cre­ativ­ity and the ges­ta­tion mode. As a writer, Hus­tad knows that cre­ativ­ity re­quires an in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod, that leav­ing some­thing alone or tak­ing a break im­proves the over­all re­sult. Hus­tad does free­lance work for cor­po­ra­tions and says that man­agers make true cre­ativ­ity un­likely to oc­cur be­cause they don't look fa­vor­ably upon tak­ing breaks or be­ing play­ful at work. They want to see work­ers fo­cused and in "closed mode." Closed mode refers to the im­ple­men­ta­tion part of work, when the brain is closed and fo­cused and busy.

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