4 Ways to Energize Your Team’s Creativity

My college degree is in graphic design, but I took many fine arts classes as part of my degree plan. One benefit of these classes was the critique. Often, we would draw or paint for the majority of our class period, then we would post our creations on the wall. Our effort and talents were taped to the wall with nothing to cover their naked misrepresentations and flawed technique. Once you survived a potentially shameful critique, you felt as though you could make it through anything.

There was something about this format that would amplify your creativity. As you sketched out a shape, you knew your colleagues would soon be poring over it; pointing out your brilliance or your clumsiness. This anticipation added a level of energy to your work.

Do you value innovation and creativity in your team? Do you need new ideas and solutions in order to meet the increasing demand for productivity and continual change? Are you providing a framework for your team to be creative, or are you simply hoping it will happen? Maybe there are a few tips from the art class that can help.

Here are 4 ways you can energize your team’s creativity:

  1. Provide Space to Create
    In art class, each student had their own space. It helps to have some individual time to create. An instructor would hover around the room, checking in on progress and offering thoughts along the way. This gave the student confidence in what they were creating and allowed them to make adjustments, if needed.

    • Do you give your team time to think and create on their own?
    • Before a meeting, do they have information ahead of time so they can spend some individual time processing?
    • Do you check in with them in a non-threatening one-to-one discussion?
  2. Give a Reference Point
    Artists often have subjects to reference. This could be a bowl of fruit or a model. Whatever it is, it gives the artist a way to see how light and shadows interact with the subject. It allows them to observe different perspectives and find a more dynamic angle.

    • Do you give your team examples of what you’re trying to create?
    • Can you show them what it looks like applied in a different industry or environment?
    • Maybe they will see the pros and cons of ideas better or notice a new and fresh perspective you can take.
  3. Defer Judgment, but Don’t Eliminate It
    Critiques don’t happen at the beginning of an art class. Other classmates don’t typically circle the room to point out what they think of their peers’ unfinished works. Unlike the instructor’s advice, early criticism from colleagues can stifle creativity. Still, a critique is held at the end, so that each art student can gain objectivity on their progress.

    • When generating ideas, do you allow early criticism to quash other potential ideas from being offered?
    • Do you allow all ideas to linger without ever considering their pros and cons?
    • Your team may not feel a sense of progress without any judgment being offered.
  4. Separate the Person from the Product
    Once the art is on the wall and the students gather around, you don’t hear criticisms like these: “Michael is a jerk.” “Stacy is an emotional wreck.” or “I don’t want anything to do with Roger.” The critique is of the artwork, not the artists. The art has been hung up on its own and the artists have stepped back.

    • When ideas are offered, are they assessed on their own merits or based on the merit of their source?
    • Does the critique become an ad hominem, personal attack?
    • Do you allow your teammates to hold out their ideas far from themselves, safe from any slings or arrows?

Wishing for new and better solutions from your team isn’t the answer. Another brainstorming meeting isn’t enough. You need to establish an environment that facilitates creativity. By providing space, giving a reference point, deferring judgment and separating people from their products; you are priming the pump for creative energy.

What are some of the challenges you face with injecting creative energy into your team? Let me know by filling out a comment below.

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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