Many leaders think of leadership skill and creativity as two disparate concepts. However, good leaders know that creativity is key to innovation and success. A leader who can inspire creativity can help their team achieve great things.
So, how can a good leader inspire creativity? Here are some ideas to get started:
Encourage Creativity With Exercises
One way to get people thinking creatively is to start with some fun exercises. Brainstorming sessions are great for getting everyone to think outside the box and generate new ideas. Creative problem-solving exercises, where teams have to come up with innovative solutions to low-stakes problems, can also be beneficial.
Some of the best creative exercises we’ve used include:
- The Marshmallow Challenge: In this team-building exercise, teams have to build the tallest structure possible out of marshmallows and spaghetti in a given time period. It’s a great way to encourage collaboration and ingenuity.
- The Paper Airplane Exercise: In this exercise, teams must work together to design and build the best paper airplane. The catch? They can only use the materials provided, and they have to do so in a limited amount of time. This exercise helps enhance creative thinking under pressure.
- The Human Knot: This is another team-building exercise that’s great for inspiring better communication. Teams have to untangle themselves from a “human knot” without letting go of each other’s hands. It sounds simple, but it’s actually quite challenging — and a lot of fun.
Stimulate Creative Thinking
If you want your team to be more creative, you need to encourage them to think in unusual ways. One way that we find works well is to offer opportunities to take on projects outside their normal scope of work. This will challenge them to come up with new and innovative solutions.
We also find it helpful to ask employees to share some of their more unconventional ideas. Brainstorming sessions, whether in one-on-one meetings or by contributing anonymous ideas written on paper and drawn out of a box, can work well. It’s important to emphasize that there are no wrong answers and to be open to hearing anything employees have to say, as long as it’s relevant.
Create a Safe Environment for Failure
One of the biggest barriers to creativity is the fear of failure. Yet, failure is one of the most important steps in the creative process! It’s through failure that we learn and grow.
Creating a safe environment for failure is an essential leadership skill. Employees should know that it’s okay to take risks and that their efforts are supported — even if they don’t always succeed. This will encourage them to experiment and propose new ideas without the fear of being reprimanded. At the end of an experiment, it’s best for team members to write down everything they learned about the project, the process, and themselves. The growth potential here is incredible.
Another way to encourage creativity is to reward it. This could be in the form of financial incentives, such as bonuses or commissions. But it could also be in the form of recognition and praise. The team should be praised when they’ve come up with a great idea or executed a project in a creative way. This will inspire them to keep thinking outside the box.
Finally, we all know that creativity doesn’t just come from individuals — it shines well when it’s the result of collaboration. When people work together, they can fluidly exchange ideas and build on them as a collective. Pairing employees or teams up for projects, or allowing employees to choose their own teams, can be a great way to allow for collaborative efforts. Other opportunities for cross-functional collaboration include company-wide brainstorming sessions.
The Bottom Line
Being a good leader is about more than just managing and motivating employees — it’s also about inspiring creativity. By using the tips above, a more creative team environment is sure to be the result. When a team is more creative, they’re better able to solve problems, innovate and serve customers.