Everyone wants to encourage creativity—and creativity is an integral part of innovation. Yet creativity with an absence of structure becomes chaos, and unproductive chaos at that. Unbridled creativity without structure kills profit margins along with production numbers. So how do you create an environment that fosters creativity while still maintaining the highest level of productivity?
Embrace Routine Repeatability
Getting into a routine is a good thing. If you have a series of similar tasks that form a significant chunk of your work day, group those tasks into a set-aside block of time during the day. Commit to performing those tasks in a mental space that refuses to be distracted by anything that doesn’t constitute an emergency. Email can wait. And it’s okay to let colleagues know that you’re not available during those hours unless they truly have a pants-on-fire problem. You’ll find that the initial discipline required to form this work routine will subside into habit. And when it becomes a habit, your tasks become more easily repeatable, take less time to complete and the quality of your work will increase.
Schedule Time for Creativity
Once you’ve efficiently routinized your easily repeatable tasks, dedicate a portion of the time you’ve saved to creative brainstorming. Almost anything can be improved. Just because you’ve always done something in a certain way doesn’t mean there’s not a better alternative. And it doesn’t need to take a lot of time either. Schedule half hour creative brainstorms twice a week and you’ll be surprised by the innovative ideas that result.
Frequent meetings form the bane of modern office existence. Meetings are necessary but frequently abused. Before you call a meeting, first ask yourself these questions: is this meeting absolutely necessary? Who actually needs to be in this meeting? You may find that half of the meetings you’re scheduling either aren’t necessary or that the original goal of the meeting can be achieved by other means.
But let’s assume that you’ve scheduled a meeting and have invited only the people who need to be there. Effectively structuring a meeting can increase its impact and cut down on wasted time. Appoint a meeting moderator to keep things on point. In group brainstorms, it’s very easy to end up going off on tangents and getting off point. A meeting moderator can gently bring people back on topic and refocus the meeting. Good ideas that are off topic can be logged for future brainstorms to which they are relevant.
The extent to which creativity can act as a force for new solutions requires getting out of your own head for a bit. Essentially, creative problem-solving requires empathy. If you change the perspective from which you view the problem, you’ll gain tremendous insight into solving it. You’ll also be more likely to solve the problem for everyone it affects rather than just minimizing the impact of the problem on yourself. If you’re interested in fostering a creative environment in your workplace, try incorporating these structural components into your office routine and see what happens.