With businesses across the board continuously innovating just to keep up with the rapid pace of change in today’s digital world, nurturing creativity is critically important to the future of every company.

Fostering creative thinking has been linked to a company’s ability to grow and succeed. In fact, around 60 percent of CEOs and public leaders polled said they value creativity over all other skills in their employees and leaders. And the 2010 IBM Global CEO Study concurred, finding creativity to be the most important trait for future leaders to possess.

If you know how to be creative, you can learn anything and rise to any challenge. This is why creativity is such a hot commodity in the 21st-century job market — and why many companies might consider creating their own in-house talent development programs.

At 72andSunny, we’ve developed a 12-week creative residency program, called 72U, to help participants reach their potential, creatively and professionally, through experimentation and collaboration. Not only does this program enable us to give back to the creative community, which is one of our top priorities as a company, but 72U participants also often turn out to be outstanding candidates to work with us after their session finishes. In essence, our talent development program is the purest expression of our company mission: to be a platform for personal growth and creative self-expression.

Creativity for All

Although executives spend $164 billion on learning and development programs, many business leaders remain unsure about how effective they are. One thing that’s getting lost in the shuffle is creative thinking.

When we say “creativity,” we’re essentially talking about coming up with ideas to solve problems. This means successful innovation depends heavily on creativity — being agile, adaptable, and able to solve problems in unique ways. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with art; creativity is a competency that can be learned and practiced by all.

It starts with the space set aside for creative pursuits. What does such an environment look and feel like? And what does it mean to be truly creative?

The physical space should be adaptable to different uses, with books, tools, and supplies that stimulate creativity and promote exploration. To foster a creative emotional space within, consider starting each day meditating as a group to nurture both the individual and the team.

Starting an In-House Talent Development Program

For in-house talent development programs to work, company leaders must promote an atmosphere that fosters a creative mindset in both their employees and themselves. Here are some tips for doing just that:

1. Set forth the vision. As it’s the responsibility of senior-level executives to cultivate talent, an in-house talent development program won’t work unless an organization’s leaders provide both the vision and the investment needed. A talent development program is the purest form of the company’s mission, so it must start at the top.

2. Get employees excited. Yes, the vision needs to come from the top, but if employees don’t support the program, it won’t succeed. They need to see the benefits and be proud of the initiative. The best way to get buy-in is to involve them.

3. Define your mission. One study found that only 10 percent of companies with talent development programs in place have aligned those programs with their overall strategy. Start by brainstorming: “What opportunities are we missing, and how can this program fill those gaps?” When you understand your company’s values and ambitions, you can determine how the program will embody them and how you can get the most out of the program.

4. Ask the right questions. The questions you ask will determine your outcomes. What do you want the output to be? How will you measure success? Review your industry’s current landscape, and evaluate where it’s headed to determine what your talent development program needs to achieve.

5. Find the right person to spearhead the program. Company cultures will inevitably change over time, so the program needs someone who can act as the connector between the organization and the program, take accountability for the program, and continue to evolve it. Building an in-house talent development program is an iterative process, and it’s definitely a full-time job.

6. Determine a system design. How does this program fit into the company’s ecosystem? You need to develop the content, identify how the program interacts with the company, determine whether people pay to participate in it, and outline the framework (i.e., how long it will be, who will lead it, and how it will be organized).

The Benefits of a Talent Development Program

How will all of this help your bottom line? As your company becomes known for nurturing creative talent, the talent will come to you — even from outside your industry. And a diverse internal team will enrich all of your projects.

As you grow, a talent development program is a way to try out potential candidates to see whether they’re a good fit. Our culture, for example, is highly collaborative, meaning it isn’t a fit for everybody. So the programs I direct not only allow us to try people out and grow them within our culture, but they also enable participants to see whether our company would be a good fit for them.

There are a lot of practical and measurable benefits to having an in-house program; it allows you to attract and assess talent outside your industry and grow that talent within the company culture. It also provides inspiration for the company and empowers company leadership to invest in the future leaders of your industry. These days, businesses struggle to fill critical positions at many levels in what’s been called the “war for talent.” For us, it hasn’t been a battle so much as a challenge and a journey.

If you can’t find the talent you need, grow it.