How to cultivate creativity in the workplaceHow important is creativity to your company? In a recent poll, almost sixty percent of CEOs called creativity the most important quality for leadership, while 52 percent chose integrity and 35 percent selected global thinking. But what if your business isn’t creative in nature? No problem. Here are four ways to help creativity bloom, no matter where you work.

Get more out of your brainstorming.
Most people love the idea of brainstorming. But sometimes, you realize you’ve just spent two hours in the conference room and you have nothing to show the boss. Here are a few tips to remember:

  1. Start with a Plan. Coming up with ideas for an employee volunteer event? Keep your creative work more focused by first identifying your objective, your budget, your schedule, and what you’ve learned from previous efforts.
  2. Select a Brainstorming Leader. Pick someone who’s good at being impartial, keeping things moving and keeping people focused on generating ideas without editing them (until later.)
  3. Listen to Employees. Sometimes people prefer to brainstorm and then spend some time working independently. Allow some flexibility for this.

The key is to create just enough guidelines to make your brainstorming productive. But not so many that creativity is stifled.

Identify good Ideas. Then test them.
Once your brainstorming is done, identify the strongest ideas. But don’t get bogged down in all the details. Simply get your ideas to a point where you can quickly explain them to someone using a written document, a whiteboard, a sketch, online references, or something else.

Then create an informal focus group by asking other people in your office to provide feedback. IDEO, a company that teaches creative thinking to companies worldwide, calls this Rapid Prototyping, and it’s a good way to keep everyone focused on the big ideas.

Pay attention to environment.
Studies have shown that conditions such as dim lighting, reduced clutter, taking a walk, and even rooms with high ceilings can enhance creativity. However, environments affect people in different ways. To encourage creativity, give employees the freedom to try out different environments, even if it means going to a local coffee shop for a while. The more inspired people feel, the more innovative their problem-solving will be.

Recognize creativity.
Perhaps the simplest way to cultivate creativity in the workplace is to pay attention to when it happens and recognize those responsible. Do this publicly in an employee meeting or one-on-one, depending the person(s) who deserve the praise. Recognizing great ideas will set a good example for others, and make it clear that the company places a high value on innovation.

Today, creativity from employees has moved beyond ad agencies, music production companies, and developers of online content. All companies understand that creativity leads to innovation. And innovation is the engine that keeps companies moving.