Practical Ways to Nurture Creativity and Innovation at Work


Last week, I wrote about how people in leadership positions can foster an environment of innovation and openness by encouraging their employees to disagree with them. This week, I’m going to dig in deeper to examine other ways you can nurture creativity and innovation in the workplace.

I’ve visited many businesses which have “Innovation” listed as one of their values on the wall – yet when I spoke with employees at the company, I often learned that their leaders didn’t encourage innovation at all! In fact, it was often the opposite. So how do you ensure your company’s support for innovation goes further than a few words printed on a piece of paper?

Give Employees Permission to Explore

Pixar is renowned worldwide for its imagination, innovation, and success. Those features are built into every aspect of the Pixar culture. One way the company does this is by holding a Notes Day every year, where employees are encouraged to disengage from their day-to-day duties and instead offer up ideas and work together to streamline solutions to problems. This is how the company maintains its edge, even to this day.

I know of another manager, Tim, at a different company who engaged his team in a very similar process. Tim’s team worked in data entry, which can be a pretty monotonous job. Day in and day out, his team would perform the same activities over and over. It became difficult for many of the workers to maintain motivation and their numbers would start to slip over time. In response, Tim did something that seems counterintuitive: he told his team they could take a break from their data entry duties one day each month, and instead encouraged them to use that day to work on whatever side projects they had in mind. The only stipulation was the projects had to be related to the company in some way.

Interestingly enough, Tim didn’t see a drop in monthly data entry outputs, even though everyone on his team was working on data entry one fewer day per month. Because they were so inspired by their side projects, the team returned to their normal duties more motivated and enthusiastic than before and their productivity jumped as a result.

Make a Competition Out of It

Many companies hold “Hackathons:” competitions where employees submit ideas for updates or projects that they think would improve the company. These employees can form teams or work solo, with the goal to develop working prototypes of their ideas. The project ideas can be as complex as creating new search tools for your website or simpler, like creating an eco-friendly office plan. A panel of judges will determine the “winning” ideas which your company will then implement.

These events are traditionally held by tech companies, but they don’t have to be. To get wider participation, open the competition up to everyone: from the tech-savvy web developers to customer care teams or sales agents. This is a great way to ensure buy-in across the entire company. Every employee, whether they compete or not, will feel like their ideas are valued.

Successful events offer prizes to the winners – try to choose prizes that will incentivize employees to participate, like an extra vacation day or a monetary award. These events are excellent ways for employees to learn new skills and for the leadership team to discover ways their company can improve.

These are just a few easy-to-implement ideas you can incorporate into your own office or team. All you need is an open mind! For more methods you can use to bring about transformative change at work, contact me on my website for a one-on-one consultation.