The Seven Principles of Managing for Creativity

- Leadership

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by Louise Brace

Creativity and Innovation have always been at the heart of every successful organization. Yet until recently, the responsibility of innovating new ideas and products was left to the R&D and Creative Teams. Managing creativity was something of an enigma. How do you manage something so abstract as innovation?

In recent years the role of the Creativity Manager has developed. And as we start to see creative workers replace knowledge workers, knowing how to creatively manage teams and inspire diversity, have become essential elements in the role of today’s team leaders.

Nowadays even the workplaces that are considered most mundane, have the scope to be creative and innovative in their approach. Take the case of the instant soup factory, where the Spice Blenders and Production Line Operators took it upon themselves to increase productivity, by creating their own tempo.

How do we encourage creativity in the modern-day organization? And what are the foundations that propel us to great innovation? There are lots of ways we can innovate in the workplace, and make our workplaces more stimulating for creativity to flow. We just have to give our teams the freedom and confidence to explore ways of doing what they do better.

Learn more about the Management 3.0 Module Creativity & Innovation

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Follow these seven principles to have your budding designers, scientists and artists, rise up and innovate your next market-leading creation.

Nurture diversity

When teams connect ideas from entirely different contexts, they innovate. The role of a Creativity Manager is to build a diverse team and then nurture its diversity, so the individuals learn to value their originality and gain the confidence to bring their unique perspectives to the table. A Creativity Manager always supports the individualism of her team members and is able to  facilitate diverging opinions.

How do you manage creativity and innovation?

Building a diverse and cross-functional team is easier when you allow team members to take part in the recruitment process of new team members. It allows them to pick candidates who fit in with the team culture and share similar values. Diverse teams take pride in making a positive and joint contribution to the overall goals of an organization.

Create Markets

When you nurture diversity amongst teams and workers and let them explore new ideas and concepts, you’re cultivating a networked organization. Networked organizations are structured on the belief, that every individual has the ability and right to collaborate, innovate and solve the problems of an organization. Creativity Managers motivate teams and individuals to work together, but also to succeed on individual merit. Rather like the Tour de France.

When we replace the traditional hierarchal system, we start to create markets, fostering collaboration and entrepreneurship – or intrapreneurship. In this environment, job titles make way for work profiles, which allow the individual to create the role they want, as long as their outcome, continues to feed the desired objective of the organization.

To sustain motivation and a high level of contribution in a market environment, Creativity Managers must put regular feedback and employee recognition at the top of the priority list.

Rely on Merits

Creativity Managers use various methods to recognise individual achievements and offer regular feedback to their teams of intrapreneurs. They understand that recognition isn’t always the most effective when it flows from the top down. In fact, we appreciate the recognition from our peers more than we do recognition from a management team, who has taken little or no part in the project.

Peer-to-peer recognition encourages understanding and appreciation of the role of individual team players. It empowers innovation and awakens a common approach to finding solutions. Our Happy Melly team successfully uses Merit Money to recognize the great efforts of our team players. Each month we get 100 points to distribute amongst the team to show gratitude for great work, kindness, even just to say thanks for making us smile.

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Make no predictions

In a world where the only certainty is uncertainty, distributed organizations must plan for a future without making concrete predictions about what that future might look like, or how they are going to get there.

Strategy planning should allow for multiple scenarios. Creativity Managers who nurture diversity, empower teams to explore scenarios and present multiple solutions to reach the organizational goals.

Update the workplace

The work environment has a considerable impact on creativity. Creating a workspace that doesn’t feel like work, but imitates life outside of the office, can inspire employees and play a big role in the innovation of new products and services. The more space, colour and flexibility you introduce in the workplace, the more likely your creative workers are to feel stimulated and motivated to succeed.

Some companies spend millions of dollars on reinventing their office spaces. You don’t have to go crazy, but there are some fundamental design elements that will go a long way to making your team feel at home:

Update the workplace to embrace innovation

Open and transparent: Open spaces create a unified experience and support a transparent culture. Too large a space and you might create the feel of a call centre – loud, noisy and difficult to concentrate. To eradicate this issue, incorporate closed off areas for your workers to think, meditate or meet.

Make work colourful: Colour affects your mood and has an impact on behaviour. Get your team involved in decisions on colour schemes and space rearrangement, and allow them to add their personal touches.

Change constraints

Creativity managers change constraints

So many constraints to deal with on a daily basis – clock in/clock out, sit at your desk, eat lunch at 1pm, catch the train at 5.30pm. Why does everything have to fit into a neat little box? Actually it doesn’t. What if you gave your employees the freedom to work from where they want? Take unlimited vacation time, or spend a couple of a days a month working on another team?

Every work environment has to have some constraints. In fact, esearch shows that creative workers like constraints. The objective of a good Creativity Manager is to encourage experimentation and workplace flexibility; to identify and introduce good constraints, and get rid of the ones that do nothing for productivity and innovation.

Creativity Managers set team guidelines that take into consideration the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’: Why do we need constraints? What will our team benefit from these constraints? How will it help us reach our higher purpose?

Open Boundaries

The more freedom you allow your employees, the more likely they are to adopt a learning mindset. Good Creativity Managers believe in the value of knowledge sharing, networking and collaboration. Those that fear openness will end up repressing creativity. When organizations open up boundaries, they enjoy an inflow of great ideas.

Creative workers should be allowed to network with like-minded people and organizations, attend cross company conferences and create open innovation networks, sharing ideas and practices. This is a great way to grow a transparent culture, where employees are not afraid to listen, learn and share knowledge. Of course, when we open boundaries, we also have to set constraints to protect product innovation.

Ultimately when we do away with traditional boundaries, we open up opportunities for creativity and entrepreneurship in teams. When we nurture diversity, we create teams that can provide us with multiple scenarios for the future. Through regular feedback and letting our workers invent their own role, we feed enthusiasm and give them a sense of purpose. And when we give them regular time to experiment and collaborate, we spark innovation.

Who will you let create the future of your organization?

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