little black book – how to encourage creativity in the workplace
I am a firm believer that leadership and creativity can and should be encouraged at all levels of an organisation. If anything, it’s key. I started my career with a boss that allowed me to develop these skills right from the outset, without this, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in the industry. By cultivating a culture where employees feel comfortable to share their creative thoughts, firms can innovate. However, a lot of organisations struggle with ‘how’; how do you encourage your workforce to put ideas forward, which could in-turn benefit the business?
Arguably those within creative agencies often find it harder to suggest ideas, because nothing seems to live up to the carefully crafted ideas we present to our clients. It’s also been said that creativity is innate rather than something which can be learned and cultivated. I do agree that some people are more naturally creative than others, but an idea can come from anywhere, and I believe in the right environment where there is freedom to express opinions, anyone can be creative. I also think it’s a commercial imperative to nurture creative thinking across the workplace and in all employees.
One only needs to look at what some of the world’s largest companies are doing to draw out creativity in order for us to realise its importance. And as things like connected devices and social media continue to rapidly change the way we interact with brands, the need for it will only grow.
Google, for example, has introduced its 20 per cent programme policy, in which its developers are allowed to spend 20 per cent of their daily working hours on any side project that inspires them. It aims to give employees the chance to think creatively, potentially leading to an innovative thought, which can feed back into the business. Likewise, Microsoft has converted Bill Gates’ old office space into ‘The Garage’, which is filled with gadgets and gizmos. Employees are then encouraged to go there and test out the products and work on various projects, sometimes for up to a week.
While we may not all be able to offer our employees the latest tech-toys or oodles of free time, there are a few simple methods organisations can look to introduce, which could lead to a conducive environment, in which ideas are shared freely.
Encourage people to take up projects separate to client work
This draws upon Google’s idea of free time; however the side project could be something that’s more for the business rather than personal, yet separate to client work. At ZAK Media Group, we tasked our juniors to create something that would showcase the agency’s personality, which could be used for new business purposes without featuring case-studies or being too self serving. There is enough of that out there already. That was the only brief we gave, and the result was a stunning book of photography (taken by them) of life on Leather Lane, where we are based. It was aptly called Life in Leather. It always gets a fantastic reaction.
Reward your employees
If you really want to get your employees to take the time out to actively think of innovative ideas, you need to give them a solid reason to do so – otherwise, it can easily fall by the wayside. One of the ways we do this, is through our COOL SH*T mailer. Our employees are incentivised to find the coolest and most creative stuff and then share it. The best suggestions are selected to feature in the mailer, which is essentially a round-up of all the creative work online that’s sent to clients and prospects. The person who’s work is selected the most times in a month wins £50.
People may say that they are shy, and don’t want attention, but there are very few people that would not want to be recognised for good work. If there is someone on the team that has been working particularly hard, and delivering stellar results then it is extremely important to let them know it has been acknowledged. Depending on the individual, recognition can be scaled to match personality. Some people may want their name in lights, while others would be happier with praise being delivered in a one-to-one meeting. At ZAK, we have a ‘Hero of the Month’ award, which identifies the individual that has gone above and beyond that month. We generally focus on juniors and middle management to inspire greatness at every level.
Another way ‘fame’ can be delivered is through friendly competitions. For example, we have a monthly Instagram competition, where our Chief Creative Officer picks the most creative snap uploaded with the correct hashtag. We then print and frame the winning image for our ‘Wall of Fame’ in our loos!
Get people involved in their surroundings
In order to get people to work at their ultimate level, businesses need to create an environment which is conducive and helps to inspire creativity. At ZAK, we are constantly refreshing our office, to keep our workforce stimulated.
We also think it is only right to get the whole team involved in what our next interior refresh will involve. After all, if they are spending eight hours a day there, they need to be happy with the way it looks. We encourage everyone to contribute ideas and have a Pinterest Board, where the team can add on their ideas. The junior team then pick the best, which we use as inspiration to create our annual office look.
Joanna Davies is CEO and co-founder of ZAK Media Group