Sometimes the way our businesses evolve unintentionally stifles creativity and can have a damaging effect on morale. Layers of bureaucracy, an overly hierarchical structure, poor people management and a lack of clear goals are just a few ways in which a business can make it difficult for individuals to come up with new ideas and better ways of doing things or drain the energy and fun out of the workplace. Some of these stifling ways of working need a serious re-think and overhaul which may take time, energy and investment from senior management. However, there are some quick and easy changes that you can introduce at work that will have an immediate, positive effect. Even if your business isn’t any where near as dire as Dull.com above (and fortunately most small businesses aren’t!), you can still inject energy, freedom and fun into the workplace and enable a much more innovative culture.
1.Love the little things
So often small steps and changes go unnoticed or, at worst, don’t even happen because they’re not high-impacting so therefore not worth the bother. Instead all the focus is placed on the big, often high risk, business-transforming projects. What we forget is that it’s the small things that add up to make the big difference And who says small changes can’t be innovative?
Examples of small changes might be changing the wording in standard communications to clients to make it more engaging, changing the way you run meetings or introducing a company or department Whatsapp group to help communication. Make sure your business actively sets out to encourage small ideas from all of your employees (perhaps through an ‘Ideas Box’) – and when they work publicly recognise them. These kind of fuss-free and low cost changes can be implemented quickly and easily, but still have a big impact in terms of benefiting the business through every day efficiencies and inspiring others to to come up with good ideas too – big as well as small.
2. Make inspiration visual
Install an inspiration corner or board or even let people customise the walls of an entire meeting room. Encourage them to pin up anything they come across that inspires and motivates them in work and gets their colleagues thinking, talking and debating. An eye-catching advert, beautiful plant, funny picture, email or article, inspirational quotes… A little, light policing may be required to keep it in good taste, but avoid setting rules or boundaries and let imaginations (and creative juices) run wild..!
3. Walk and talk
It seems that lots of businesses are trying the ‘walking meeting’! The gentle exercise and fresh air will energise and focus the group and research suggests it stimulates creative thinking too. If you have a set destination the meeting will also be much more likely to stay on track rather than over-run. If it’s raining, you could always try a local cafe for a change of scene and a decent coffee, and support a local business whilst you’re at it.
4. Be flexible
Time and again employee surveys show how incredibly valued flexibility at work is by many employees (not just working parents). For example, in a recent CareerBuilder survey of nearly 4000 workers, flexibility was found to be the biggest driver of employee retention. As well as improving retention and being an effective recruitment tool too, flexibility at work works wonders for morale and employee engagement. Flexibility doesn’t just mean formal part-time working arrangements or changes to working hours. Being able to nip out of the office for a couple of hours to watch their child’s school play, work from home so they can be in for the plumber or perhaps take some extended leave to care for a poorly relative are not difficult for most businesses to support and may make a world of difference to an employee’s happiness and wellbeing.
5. Think outside the box
‘Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum’….. Stimulate innovation and productivity, by encouraging employees of all levels to buddy up with another colleague – ideally someone they wouldn’t normally work with, such as a more junior colleague or someone from a different department. By meeting informally whenever works for them, individuals can gain new perspectives on projects, every day tasks and new ideas by using their buddy as a sounding board.
Use the same approach when setting up project teams. Don’t just settle for the usual suspects, but actively put together a team of people with different backgrounds, experience, interests and skills sets. New ideas and problem-solving approaches can have a profoundly positive effect on innovation and progress. Diversity of thinking is a powerful tool so encourage it.