Creativity — the Driving Force Behind Small Business Success
“Be curious.” That’s what Scott Boniface, partner and project manager at Playground, a digital creative agency in Toronto, says about how to enhance the creative vibe in the workplace. According to Scott, creating space for employees to pursue individual passions in the workplace builds camaraderie and a cohesive, creative team — the foundation for success that’s reflected in the work they do everyday.
Research from Adobe’s State of Create report is in agreement, and even suggests that creativity in the workforce is a driving force behind small business success. According to the report, people overwhelmingly believe that being creative makes better workers and leaders. Yet when asked, less than half the respondents describe themselves as creative or say they are living up to their creative potential. Can creativity really impel business results? And how are businesses implementing creative best practices in the real world to increase competitive advantage?
Most businesses today recognize the value of innovation, yet many struggle to make the shift from operational competitiveness to creative competitiveness. They know they need to innovate, but too often they inadvertently stifle the best ideas while trying to balance creative freedom with an imperative to produce.
The better alternative is do just what Scott recommended and encourage curiosity. For organizations that empower a creative workforce, innovation and growth have a positive impact on their bottom line. Here are some ways you can help your employees be more curious and creative.
Give everyone a voice. For Jon Ostroushko, desktop application and support supervisor at Quality Bicycle Products, fostering a culture of creativity began as a necessity. As a young company without a unified marketing plan, employees were often asked to contribute and share ideas for how to build the company brand. Today, the open culture continues, with creative sessions and process improvement programs designed to encourage high performance teams through open sharing and ideation. Employees at all levels actively participate by submitting creative ideas. Everyone has a voice at the table and Quality Bicycle creates better products, while solving problems in a way that can work for the business itself. Jon’s advice is clear. “Get out there and empower your employees. Listen, and you’ll open yourself up to creative views. Ignore them and you’ll miss opportunities.”
Do something different. Workshops, outings, and lunch-and-learns are all instrumental for
encouraging out-of-the-box thinking. “We took everyone to a screen printing workshop,” says Jon. “Because we work on computers all day, this was a nice opportunity to let the employees get their hands dirty and work with physical objects together — it adds another layer of collaboration.” Getting outside of your regular environment and interacting with people outside of your normal circle are great ways to make new connections and spark new ideas.
Exercise your mind. Scott’s team regularly participates in creative exercises — they think about a design problem that exists somewhere in the world, and come up with a unique solution. The next step is to assign someone on the team to bring that idea to full realization with complete freedom and autonomy from start to finish. This provides an environment and opportunity for creative growth. Says Scott of the process, “You would be surprised. Sometimes it’s the ‘pie-in-the-sky’ approach to solving problems that leads to some of the most unique insights and brilliant products.”
Tell a story. A compelling story will engage your customers — and creativity helps unravel the narrative behind your products and services. “Creativity is about making our customers excited about our product, compelling them pick it up and talk about it with their friends,” explains Scott. “It’s how you speak to your audience — through effective writing and content strategy.”
Have all minds on deck. At Playground, Scott’s strategy is to hire creative problem solvers — and ensure all of them are in the room when speaking to clients. This gives employees the opportunity to regularly explore client needs. The clients also benefit. “With creative minds in attendance, we never have to say, ‘Let me get back to you on that’ or ‘Let’s ask someone who sees thing differently.’ Clients get the answers they need to move forward and they’re confident in our approach.”
Commit to leading your employees with creativity. It fuels innovation and growth and positively impacts employee engagement and business goals. In turn, a workplace centered on creativity can build better products and services and improve your customer’s’ experience. It will help your business win.
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