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While all workplaces give lip service to wanting more creativity and want their staff to come up with new and better ideas, few take the time and effort required to set up and nurture a culture necessary for this to happen. While we may assume that creativity happens randomly and spontaneously, there is evidence that there are systematic ways we can increase novel ideas. Robert Epstein, PhD has conducted research on the topic and found there are four core competencies that can increase the output of new and original ideas. They include: capture your new ideas, seek out challenging tasks, broaden your knowledge and surround yourself with interesting things and people. With some background knowledge in what makes for a creatively stimulating environment, we can look for ways to make this happen in our workplaces.

Here are 7 situations we can set up to help nurture a creative environment:

Set up a System for Gathering, Assessing and Rewarding Creativity

Schedule ongoing regular time for brainstorming, coming up with new ideas and a follow up system with every idea. This sets up the belief that creativity is an essential part of the organization, is encouraged and taken seriously by the leadership; instead of a flavour of the month. Unless staff believe leaders take creativity seriously and reward it, it is unlikely they will put the time and effort into stretching themselves.

Encourage and Reward Creativity in the Individual Workspaces

Encourage staff to bring their individuality forward in their own workspace by giving them leeway to decorate and set it up in a way that they feel comfortable. Employees should encourage their colleagues to expand and extend a creative trend they notice that is going on. Ask them to think about what stimulates them and encourage them to surround themselves with these objects, textures, colors or scents if allowed.
Create Contests for new Ideas

Healthy competition is always a good idea and is a great way to encourage people into the habit of thinking outside of the box. How about something like a prize, or another form of recognition for the most creative new idea of the month? Staff could vote on the best idea and challenge themselves to come up with unique prizes tailored to the person winning the prize.

Encourage Spontaneity and Random Ideas

Hold regular meetings where the sole purpose is to discuss ideas that come up and talk about them; brainstorming. The only rules would be that no idea is unacceptable and nobody is allowed to put down or ridicule anyone else’s ideas. After ideas are submitted staff would break into a couple of groups, one which would defend the idea and the other would oppose it. The idea would be to have fun and overcome the fear of stepping outside of the norm.

Hold Meetings Outside of the Worksite

Look for interesting places to hold meetings, as far away from the workplace atmosphere as possible. A historic site, museum, college campus, or any other place that removes people from the physical things that they surround themselves with on a daily basis.

Give Employees Time to Work on Something of Interest to Them

Organizations that allow employees to spend some time on their own projects find that it helps them break out of routine and come up with more and better ideas. Encourage staff to share what they are working on with others and reach out for help, support and ways that they can improve their individual projects.

Support and Encourage Staff Towards Continuous Learning

Employees should be continuously encouraged to continuously learn, whether it is work related or for their personal interests. This could be done through financial rewards, time off work or recognition, formal or informal. Meetings held annually could recognize people who made the effort to learn a new language, skill or try out a new experience. Prizes for those who stepped the farthest outside of the norm will encourage others to broaden their own world.

Put Usable New Ideas Into Practice As Soon As Possible

The most powerful way to get staff to believe in the value of new, original ideas is to have them witness them being put into practice. The sooner they are implemented the better. If an idea is good and there are possibilities of using it, create timelines and a plan for putting it to use. Let everyone know the timelines and when they can expect to see the idea come to fruition. If ideas are not used, put some effort into explaining why they may be good ideas but not possible to use at this time.