Just about every entrepreneur and business leader prizes creativity. The ability to come up with new, innovative ideas is vital to keeping up with the competition in any industry. But are individuals born with a creative mind, leaving the "non-creative" crowd at a severe disadvantage, or is it a teachable skill? Many experts agree with the latter viewpoint, insisting that you only need to tap into and harness existing creativity.
"All people have creativity in them," said Chris Paradysz, founder and CEO of digital marketing agencies Paradysz and PM Digital. "But it is the responsibility of life's influencers — parents, managers, coaches —to draw out this quality, build confidence and to help to develop it. To be taught anything requires openness on [the student's] part, but it also requires a teacher who puts passion behind exploring and teaching it."
Whether you're a startup founder, a C-suite executive or a lower-level employee, your job always has a need for creative thinking. Here are four tips for teaching and encouraging creativity, no matter your individual role.
Ask unusual questions
Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to temporarily redirect the team's focus. John Canfield, corporate speaker and management consultant, recommends asking unusual, open-ended questions as tools to encourage creative thought. The brain, he said, will work harder to answer these questions, which can pave the way to innovative ideas.
"I am a big fan of using [questions as] tools to guide or provoke thinking," Canfield told Business News Daily. "These tools do not tell people what to think, but rather how. This provocation allows the brain to go to work by mixing up a wide variety of ideas, [and then] new ideas will occur."
Build an environment of confidence
Fear, whether it's fear of rejection, ridicule or job insecurity, can be one of the biggest hindrances to creativity. Employees who don't seem to offer many new ideas to the group may just lack the confidence to speak up. Strive to create a culture that welcomes all ideas, without judgment or criticism.
"The old-school methods of encouraging creativity still ring true — brainstorming ideas in groups, challenging each other and building on each other's ideas," said Anthony Smith, founder and CEO of CRM software company Insightly. "It is important that [these activities are] conducted in a positive way, to encourage all employees to have the confidence to contribute, as sometimes the most creative idea can get shut down just because it is different."
Canfield echoed the importance of confidence. "Do all you can to reduce fear in the workplace," hesaid. "Employees and leaders frightened about keeping their jobs or status in the workplace will struggle to come up with original ideas, and if they do have them, they will be unlikely to share[those ideas]."
Turn to new sources
Nothing halts innovation like relying on the same ways of thinking time and time again. Julie Weeks, advisor for American Express' small business branch, OPEN, believes that specifically seeking out diverse input is the key to cultivating new, creative ideas.
"You can really spark creativity if you go outside of your normal sphere of colleagues and resources," Weeks said. "Don't just go to the same old sources. Be mindful of the diversity of opinions [you gather]. Pick up something that's totally out of your realm of expertise — that's where you spark a new idea."
Get out of the office
When your team members feel like they've hit a dead end, a change of scenery might be all they need to refuel their creative energy. Step away from the desks, computers and conference calls for a while to give yourself and your employees a fresh perspective.
"Inspiration often comes from unexpected, serendipitous conversations," said Darwon Choe, marketing manager of ad technology firm Spongecell. "In addition to traditional meetings, our team and our clients get together for less-orthodox activities like tailgates and even the occasional skydiving excursion. By taking things out of the conference room, we're able to engage with our clients on a different level and spark conversations that just might be the start of the next big thing."
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