Creativity in the workplace isn’t limited to a business’s graphic designers, copywriters, or marketing department. Thinking of new, innovative ways of doing things is the key to staying ahead of the competition. Whether it’s an outside-the-box financial analysis of potential new markets or a new procedure that helps create a safer work environment, fostering an atmosphere of creativity leads to a stronger, more productive company overall.
Here are four ways some leaders, despite their best intentions, stifle employee creativity.
Autonomy is an important part of fostering creativity. So, when leaders constantly step in to micromanage every aspect of a project, it discourages the free thinking that often leads to new ideas. For employees who feel they don’t have enough autonomy in their work, the goal often shifts to trying to please their supervisors, while creativity takes the backseat.
Some of the negative effects of low autonomy on employees may include stress, disengagement, poor health, and lack of confidence. In fact, in a study from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Erik Gonzalez-Mule, the study’s lead author, said “… findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making, while stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making.”
Work environment isn’t conducive to creativity
Environment has a major effect on our creative abilities. Big, corporate workplaces are often satirized as cold and drab, but many have discovered the benefit of creating at least one area that is colorful and different from the rest of the workplace to help foster new, outside-the-box ideas.
As reported in an article on Forbes.com, research from Exeter University’s School of Psychology “found that employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspaces are not only happier and healthier — they’re also up to 32% more productive.” So, an investment in a more creative space for employees may pay off with your company’s next innovative breakthrough.
“We’ve always done it this way” mentality
If it isn’t broken, why fix it, right? There is comfort in predictable results, and in many situations, the well-established processes and procedures that have always worked are exactly what you want. However, when it comes to inspiring creativity, you have to be willing to step outside the norm.
The late Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a U.S. Naval officer and computer programmer, is credited with saying “The most dangerous phrase is ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” If employees feel they are bound to a system without any room to explore new ideas, creativity and innovation will stagnate, which not only leads to turnover, but the company will eventually fall behind competitors that are more willing to step outside the box.
Unwilling to accept the possibility of failure
While working toward creating a long-lasting, practical lightbulb, Thomas Edison famously explained his repeated missteps along the way by saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Fear of failure is detrimental to creativity and had Edison not embraced the occasional defeat, he wouldn’t have amassed more than 2,300 patents on a wide range of inventions.
In the same vein as the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality, unwillingness to accept the possibility of failure is also a major creativity killer. Innovation is the key to staying ahead of the competition. So, leaders who are obstinately risk-averse and unwilling to lay it all on the line for a big idea out of fear of even the smallest chance of failure create a work environment where creative thinking is in short supply.
What are some other ways creativity is hampered in the workplace? What are some ways your workplace inspires creativity? Let us know in the comments section below.