Practical steps to encourage creativity and problem solving in the workplace
If you are in a senior management position and are looking to change the environment of your company, to make it more creative, you should probably start with yourself. Acknowledge that you have played an important role in the creation of the current system and that its strength and weaknesses are, to a certain extent, also your strengths and weaknesses.
You might have to start by enrolling yourself on an innovation course. Innovation training will create the mind-set that is vital if you are to turn other people’s thinking around over time.
As a senior manager you have the benefit that your recommendations are likely to be taken seriously. You also have the power to make changes that will affect the whole company, while less senior management staff can only make decisions regarding their respective departments.
Kick off the process by setting up a committee overseeing brainstorming and creativity. Make sure there is a single person who is ultimately responsible for its functioning. Secondly, recognise that this will be a long-term project; changing the way an organisation thinks cannot be achieved in a few days.
The next step is to arrange a creative thinking workshop for all members of senior management, e.g. heads of departments. These are the people who will make or break the initiative and it is vital that you have their support and co-operation.
After that it is time to start involving general staff members. First send out an email outlining the company’s new creative thinking approach and the role every employee can play. Follow this up with shop-floor meetings, where every employee has the opportunity to ask questions.
Once every single employee has been properly informed about the new approach to innovation and creative thinking that the company plans to implement, setting up an employee suggestion scheme is the next logical step. Award prizes for the best ideas and give public recognition to those employees, but treasure every suggestion, even the ones that do not immediately seem to be of value.
The most difficult part of such a programme is to actually acknowledge that somewhere down the line an employee will sooner or later came up with a better solution to a problem than the one proposed by senior management. In such cases, do not become defensive, it is not about you, it is about the company. Under no circumstances steal the idea of an employee and try to make it look like your own.