Creativity in the Workplace

Office Fornitures Image By Moses Mehraban

The majority of businesses operate in a saturated market, so whether you’re attracting clients, developing designs or working out the best way to market your product to the consumer, it’s vital to stand out from your competitors. This is where creativity comes in, and it’s essential to any growing business.


Motivating Creativity

If you want to get the best from your employees you probably want to know the best way to boost their motivation. Well while financial rewards and free holidays may work well for promoting certain behaviours, they can actually inhibit creativity. A study by Lepper, Green and Nesbitt (1973) determined that, “Task motivation is likely to be stronger when motivation is intrinsic rather than extrinsic” and extrinsic motivations can impede creativity. Therefore, an employee is most creative when they desire to do work for its own sake. So what does this mean for your employees?

At a basic level it involves considering character as soon as you begin interviewing people for a role. If you’re looking for someone creative then don’t just consider their efficiency and ability to produce good work, also look at their attitude towards the position. You ideally want to hire people who consider a job in your field not just a career, but a vocation.

But there are also some ways that you can boost your current employees’ intrinsic motivation. Studies have revealed that people are most motivated to be creative when there are a limited amount of external constraints. Amabile, DeJong, & Lepper (1976) proposed an over-justification hypothesis, suggesting that despite someone finding something intrinsically interesting, if a constraint is imposed the interest can vanish. The most common of these constraints in the business world is deadlines and for the most part they’re impossible to avoid. However, there are a few ways that you can give your employees more freedom.


Creative Freedom

If you need to harness your employees’ creativity it’s important to get them involved as early as possible in a project and allow them to feel like they can shape the idea to suit them. It’s also a good idea to allow them to manage their own time to some degree, as restricted choice in task engagement can impact negatively on creative performance (Amabile & Gitomer, 1984).

One company that uses an effective way to motivate its employees’ to be creative is Google. They allow one afternoon each week to work on independent projects and many revolutionary ideas, like Gmail and Google News, have been developed in this time. By imposing few restrictions on the initial idea and allowing time away from normal work to develop it further, Google’s employees are allowed to feel like they have free reign and there is therefore no impact on their intrinsic motivation.

Trust and perceptive safety can also have an impact on creativity, so if you’re struggling to find a solution to a problem consider holding a brainstorming session and remove social barriers by inviting everyone to share ideas, no matter how ridiculous. By removing the fear employees may have of others being judgemental, you may come across something brilliant. A bad idea can often spark something new that may just work!


Design Thinking

Once you’ve got your employees thinking creatively it’s important to also make sure that the framework for their creative thinking is up to scratch. Rather than relying on traditional methods of problem solving, it’s worth taking a look at the innovative steps that are being made by new approach called ‘design thinking’.

Design thinking is the new way to think outside of the box and although you may be familiar with the warning “don’t try and reinvent the wheel”, this is exactly what design thinking does. Rather than taking what’s existing and remixing it into something better, design thinking considers the problem from the start and considers how a solution could best meet a consumer’s needs and desires.

An example would be to consider receiving a brief to create a new social media network. Rather than looking to existing models such as Facebook and Twitter for inspiration and then adding a small tweak, design thinking would approach the problem as “we’ve been tasked with creating a way for people to interact with one another and build relationships”. This allows for a greater range of ideas than if you’re merely trying to imitate something that’s been done before.

The main advantage of using a ‘design thinking’ approach is that you have a better chance of creating something completely different to what’s gone before. This can give you an advantage against competitors and will help you to bring something novel to market. It’s also a great way of resolving a problem when it seems like there are no solutions within your original constraints. The main problem of employing this approach is finding a way to tie in this kind of creative thinking within your existing system, but if you can find a way to integrate it into your processes it could revolutionise the way you work.


Creativity is the only way to stay one step ahead of the game, so by employing the methods above you’ll help to keep your company thriving in these tough economic times.


What methods do you use to boost creativity in your business?

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