Innovation can’t come from nowhere — it must be fostered in positive environments. And, if you innovate the way you take care of your people, innovation and creativity will follow.
This phrase has long been the battle cry of the business world. And it’s true — if you don’t keep up with what’s going on in the marketplace, you’ll fall behind. Yet, while we’re not here to advise you on what to innovate or how to do it, there is one thing we can say: if you innovate the way you take care of your people, innovation and creativity will follow.
The current COVID-19 period is one of uncertainty. A recent survey by McKinsey found that 90% of executives believe that the pandemic will change how they do business across the next five years, while 85% of executives are concerned that it will have a lasting impact on customers’ needs and wants. The market is changing, and fewer than 30% of executives feel prepared to address the changes.
Most businesses are in survival mode and are searching for creative, flexible and innovative solutions to survive (and thrive). Though some companies have experienced a spike in productivity from working from home, this spike is likely to be unsustainable. Without innovative ways of taking care of your people, you risk their wellbeing and their ability to be creative.
Companies need to adapt to new customer needs and identify quickly how the landscape is changing. Whether this is in new products, new services or new business processes, the creativity of your people build these innovative solutions.
It’s important to note that creativity does not refer just to artistic endeavors or departments like marketing. What we are referring to here is business creativity. As defined by Teresa Amabile, business creativity is the way people approach problems and how they use expertise, motivation, and creative thinking skills. Creativity is not just the activity of creative industries — it is an activity of positive, engaged workers across all sectors.
In a business context, it is the precursor to all innovation.
Creativity is an energy born of positive emotions. In our research, we’ve been able to confirm employees who are happy and positive about their work are more likely to be creative, both now and across the next three months. People in positive moods are better at lateral thinking, processing complex information and tend to have a wider attention span — all attributes we need to be creative.
Positive employee experiences lead to creativity.
In one study, students were shown short films that either put them in a positive mood or were neutral. They were then required to solve a challenge: they were given a candle, a box of pins, and matches, and asked to fix a candle to a corkboard in a way that would not drip wax. The results? 75% of the students who had watched the film that put them in a positive mood solved the task — only 13% of students in the control group did.
One of the questions we ask in our quarterly culture profiles at Friday Pulse is, “How often do you get the chance to be creative in your job?” This question relates to one of our core Five Ways to Happiness at Work drivers – Challenge.
Challenge is about moving on from the status quo, to learn something new and to explore whether it is better. This is an iterative learning process best fueled by a combination of creative energy and a capacity to take on board feedback. Challenge leads to a positive feedback loop — people feel more competent, able to achieve and more creative.
Challenge also encourages people to stretch themselves – to extend their abilities. A good leader ensures that the level of stretch does not overwhelm their team. They make sure they stretch enough to stave off boredom. The sweet spot is in the middle, where people feel engaged, useful and happy. In other words, leaders make sure the right assignments match the right employee.
Innovating on how you take care of your people is the first step in getting sustainable creativity. A happy work environment (even in the current work from home conditions) is one that fosters creativity and innovation. In their need to gain a competitive advantage or innovate, many businesses forget that their people don’t just do the work; they reimagine the work.
In that light, it’s a leader’s responsibility to make sure that people enjoy their work. It requires a facilitative style of leadership and understanding what makes your people happy. Here’s how you can help your organization become more innovative and creative:
In today’s environment, a space of psychological safety is critical. We’ve talked about how people need to know that they are safe, that their jobs are safe, and that everything will work out. They need a space where they feel safe enough to discuss how they’re really thinking and feeling about work.
In a psychologically safe place, your people are more likely to share their opinions. Remember, true creativity comes from difference. Diversity in opinion leads to flexibility in thinking and, ultimately, the ideas you need. Creativity requires a degree of failure — all solutions are not always tenable, and your team needs to have that space (and safety) to take risks.
Amabile states that the two significant resources that affect creativity are time and money. In some circumstances, time pressure can cause increased creativity, but extremely tight deadlines cause distrust and burnout. Creativity takes time — it needs space to experiment with new concepts. As a leader, not planning enough time for the creative process to take shape is asking for failed ideas.
With work from home being the “new normal”, it’s essential to make sure that team calls are done efficiently. Keep meetings to less than five people. You won’t get creative answers with 20 people on a Zoom call.
Helping your people be happy is an act of personal care. It’s about team bonding — virtual coffee and hangouts — and creating space to share how difficult things are right now. It’s about tracking happiness and challenging each other when it drops to new levels of positivity.
If you’re reading this article, you’re invested in improving workplace culture. You recognize that, in the current pandemic, workplace culture is a priority. Friday Pulse is designed for forward-thinking companies that understand the importance of their people’s wellbeing.
We don’t focus on engagement scores and outdated metrics. Instead, by tracking happiness scores, you get a real-time update on how your teams are coping while highlighting who needs more support. As we collect this data, we can show you if your initiatives and solutions are working.