Complex industry and creativity: Do they mix?

As industry becomes increasingly complex, with sectors like technology, oil exploration and pharmaceuticals requiring rigour, knowledge and effective processes in order to develop and produce new products and services, there is an increasing need to ensure creativity does not get left behind, as doing so can stifle individual performance and lead to a fall in productivity across the board.

With an overriding always-on mentality and a more task-oriented, narrow business focus, many organisations may be failing to provide the necessary space and incentives to their staff to think outside the confines of their daily responsibilities. This represents not only a demotivational risk to individual performance but also creates a risk that new ways of working or innovative practices are being overlooked in favour of maintaining the status quo.

High performers will always be on the lookout for the most effective means of carrying out their tasks, but by rigidly sticking to established protocol and not allowing enough freedom to innovate, businesses could be causing unnecessary hardship for their staff and creating a situation where ROI is not being maximised.

What can be done then to address this problem? Well, there are many established routes to promoting improved levels of creativity within an organisation, but it always requires the first step of recognising this is an issue that can and should be confronted.

Promoting creativity reaps rewards for organisations

Understanding the benefits of a more creative approach to workplace management is just the start, as businesses need to implement practices that support their staff in embracing their more creative side. One organisation that takes the creative process extremely seriously is tech giant Google, which offers its staff the opportunity to use up to a fifth of their time to indulge in creative free-thinking. By doing so, the company is groundbreaking in its approach to working and the outstanding track record of product innovation and employee attraction – quite simply, everyone wants to work for Google – is testament to this approach.

The rewards that are on offer for companies with a creative ethos can be far-reaching and range from stronger employee engagement, through to new and innovative techniques to achieve results, as well as the aforementioned enhanced corporate reputation. This, in turn, can help companies to hold on to and attract the best in their field, with a creative mindset being placed at the heart of these corporate gains.

This can be achieved through several means; however, the important thing to realise is this change needs to stem from the top down, with managers and those in a position of authority encouraging others to embrace a more creative approach to work. This can manifest itself in a number of ways, with individuals being rewarded or recognised for thinking outside the box, public support for success and learning from tough challenges.

Encouraging individuals to experience other areas of a business or indeed seeing with fresh eyes external to the business is an excellent method for helping people to think more creatively about their own work habits/responsibilities, while formal staff training to focus on new and creative ways of working can be invaluable. Stepping back and encouraging individuals to examine their role from an uncluttered, fresh perspective can also allow new and more effective solutions to emerge.

Creativity without a purpose, though, is unlikely to deliver enhanced results or performance. Leaders should therefore bear in mind that staff need to be supported in their drive to think creatively, but they need to so within the framework of company values and ideals, and always with a goal in mind.

Simple approaches can have far-reaching effects

It’s amazing how easy it is to encourage an innovation mind-set! Even simple things like concluding your meetings with questions like: “How could we have arrived at our actions more quickly?”, “to which extent have we fully explored the possible options?”, and “how could we have done better in this session?” will start to garner more inputs and develop a more enquiring attitude amongst colleagues.

Holding short but regular sessions with colleagues to challenge how things are getting done in pursuit of better outcomes can also develop a continuous-improvement ethos. Many successful organisations conduct regular outside-the-box thinking sessions, where employees can join in with discussions about products, services and process development; regardless of status and function.

Furthermore, moving the organisation on towards becoming a truly learning organisation brings substantial benefits. Asking “How do we adapt and learn?” enables the enlightened leader to access the value of strategy development that comes from planning, doing and then reviewing, with a view to learning lessons for the next time. High-performing organisations furthermore encourage freedom to experiment, take risks, and openly assess the results.

A creative future needed to meet the demands of global business

With globalisation at an all-time high and with increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity witnessed in industries around the world, now is not the time to be afraid to break the mould and do things differently.

Company leaders need to realise that – as they face competition from across the globe – having the courage to embrace new and innovative practices can help to stand them apart from their peers: this comes with a need to accept that their people may have as much creative spark and as many opinions about better ways of doing things as them.

One such example of the advantages that can be achieved through a more creative approach to business management is The Forum – Raising Standards in Customer Operations, which recently held its annual awards for excellence in the delivery of vital customer contact support functions in the data, analytics and insight field. The 2016 Quality & Customer Experience and Data, Analytics & Insight Awards recognised the value of those teams and individuals that have gone above and beyond by transforming the experience of their customers in the last year, with the creative, innovative practices and measures employed to achieve this all on show.

 

The Forum provides individual recognition for those driving innovation within the data and analytics sector. All made possible through a more creative mindset, the winners of these prestigious accolades can now go on to act as role models for their whole professional community and inspire others to do the same.

Developing a deep-rooted commitment to creativity in the workplace can therefore act as a key driver of future success, as demonstrated by The Forum and its commitment to highlighting how innovative approaches can deliver real results. So, to answer our original question – complex industry and creativity, do they mix? The answer is undoubtedly a resounding ‘Yes!’

To find out more about the need for creativity in the workplace and how the development of individual passions can help to build a stronger business, read ‘Leaders – remember passion breeds excellence and reinforces talents!

  • Article by David Evans, Head of Consulting and Martin Carver, Head of Organisational Development.