Innovation is a hot topic these days. And creativity is required to support and sustain innovation. In fact, a survey by IBM of more than 1,500 CEOs revealed that creativity was ranked as the number one factor for future business success — above management discipline, leadership, or vision. How do you nurture and grow such an important skill set at your company?

“A 2017 PwC CEO Survey report stated, ‘creativity can’t be coded.’ I agree — people are required for creativity,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching. “And to be creative, people need a safe ecosystem where the work of creativity is truly valued, encouraged, nurtured, and celebrated.”

Various articles about creativity speak of incentivizing creativity, brainstorming techniques, hiring the right people, encouraging diversity of thought within groups, flexible work hours, and more. All are approaches that have their merits.

“But none of the strategies, tactics, or processes to support and build creativity will succeed if the work environment isn’t perceived as safe,” said Perry.

Does your company reward groupthink and tend to promote people who toe the line? Is the management of your company quick to dismiss or disparage a new idea? Do the careers of team members responsible for a new product that did not meet sales goals wither on the vine? If so, your company is not walking the talk of creativity.

What does a safe environment for creativity look like?

Perry stresses that “Creativity is risky behavior. People make themselves vulnerable to criticism, ridicule, and failure when they voice a new idea or work to create something original.”

Safe environments make risky behavior less risky. In a safe environment for creativity, people believe and trust that they’ll be OK — their careers won’t be derailed — even if their idea is deemed impractical, unworkable, or doesn’t produce the results hoped for. Look for three essential characteristics in a safe work environment for creativity:

  1. Employee engagement, connection, and participation is encouraged and supported. It’s a place where everyone can be creative, not just certain categories of employees. For more, read Arden Coaching’s article, “3 Tips to Boost Team Creativity.”
  1. Ideas are openly offered and honestly discussed — on their own merits. It’s a place where resources are available to explore, experiment, succeed, and fail. Trying is applauded. The sin is not in failing, but in not trying. For more, read Arden Coaching’s article, “How to Foster Innovation.”
  1. The value of creativity is supported consistently. There’s persistence in truly safe creative work environments. Creativity is not reserved for disappointing quarters when the CEO announces that “we need to be more creative to meet our year-end net revenue goals!” Creativity is always on — it’s an integral and essential part of the culture. 

Creativity and innovation are highly valued and in short supply. In PwC’s 2017 CEO survey, mentioned above, respondents said that the hardest skills to find are those that can’t be performed by machines. And 77% reported that it is difficult or very difficult to recruit people with creativity and innovation skills.

Develop your organization’s creative capacity by creating a work environment that’s safe for the “risky” behavior of creative thinking.

To learn more about executive coaching, leadership, and building creative, innovative teams, contact Arden Coaching at info@ardencoaching.com or 646.684.3777.