The Art of Learning: 5 Simple Steps to a More Creative Workforce

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Natalie Ann Holborow
Digital Content Specialist
The Art of Learning: 5 Simple Steps to a More Creative Workforce

“Creativity draws from many powers that we all have by virtue of being human…and like many human capacities, our creative powers can be cultivated and refined. Doing that involves an increasing mastery of skills, knowledge and ideas.”– Sir Ken Robinson

It’s this year’s top-ranking skill in LinkedIn Learning’s list of ‘The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019’, with a staggering 81% of British bosses agreeing that fostering a creative environment is important for their employees. In our previous post, we looked at how creativity can give people the freedom to experiment with concepts, analyse different perspectives, actively engage with learning and, ultimately, promote innovation in the workplace.

We’ve already highlighted the fact that, despite misconceptions, creativity is a skill that can be harnessed by anyone – born ‘artistic’ or not. But how exactly can we nurture creativity in the workplace?

Don’t worry if you don’t immediately proclaim to be a naturally creative person yourself – you don’t need to be a natural-born Pablo Picasso or Frida Kahlo to inspire creativity in others. If you can place value on creativity and demonstrate to others new ways of approaching problems, you can begin to instil a more creative mindset in your organisation.

Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to start building a more creative workforce.

1. Present Failure as a Valuable Learning Opportunity

“Failure is success if we learn from it.” – Malcolm Forbes

One of the key barriers to creativity discussed in Part 1 was embarrassment and fear of failure, something which is often instilled in us as children by a grade-driven academic environment. It is why now, as adults, we tend to be more risk-averse for fear of looking foolish or damaging our professional reputation. We might also experience a social pressure to conform to a group majority, which does not necessarily seek ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking.

However, the most successful and creative minds actively prepare to fail and learn. Being creative is all about changing our perceptions – and by that, we need to start seeing opportunity in failure. A great example of how this mindset underpins creative workplace culture is that of Westminster Business School. Ruth Sacks, Business Development Director at the organisation, says: “making mistakes is integral to improvement, as is encouraging people to try new approaches, rather than punishing or ridiculing those who try something that doesn’t work out.” As a result, people at her organisation are far more open to contributing ideas and exploring beyond the perceived norm.

Present failure in a positive light and give people the freedom and encouragement to experiment. After all, innovation does not stem from self-doubt.

2. Make Time for Creative Thinking

There’s no getting around it – the best work doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger. Creativity requires thinking time and breathing space, and if you’re serious about letting it flourish, you need to allow time for creative ideas to flow and develop.

This may seem like an insurmountable task when your daily schedule is already tightly packed, but allowing time for creativity doesn’t have to mean crossing out a whole afternoon in the diary. It could mean something as simple as a fifteen-minute ‘brainstorming’ session (whether in a physical or virtual space), a ten-minute gap for private reflection on individual work, or following in software firm Pivotal’s footsteps by running regular “lunch and learn” sessions. These sessions, covering a range of different themes, aim to increase employees’ knowledge as well as encourage communication and collaboration – something which enhances creativity.

The role communication and collaboration play in creative thinking is precisely why our own ‘Discussions’ feature in Thinqi is designed as a way to supplement self-led learning with the space to share creative ideas – meaning there’s never a spark of insight, nor a minute of precious time wasted.

3. Encourage Creative Autonomy

Creativity involves having the capability to conceive something unique and original. It’s a mark of individuality – after all, no two people are exactly the same. In the modern workplace, we are focusing more and more on the individual, particularly with regards to learning. The modern learner wants to take increasing responsibility for their own learning, and by supporting a more autonomous approach, you grant them the creative freedom to explore and approach questions from their own angle.

This is why curation is a vital tool for allowing modern learners the freedom they need to create their own unique learning pathways without becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of resources available to them. Our Thinqi platform is the perfect example of how curation can help you to overcome this challenge of information overload. ‘Tagged’ articles, learner ratings and recommendations, as well as curated ‘Playlists’, provide a Smartie-trail for learners to explore the content most relevant and aligned with their learning goals. The result? Less time wasted sifting through resources and more time spent actively learning in unique and creative ways.

4. Reward Creativity

One way to alleviate the fear of speaking up and looking foolish is to reward and incentivise creativity. As mentioned earlier, not everybody in your workforce will feel confident expressing their ideas publicly for fear of being ridiculed.

Actively recognise great ideas and suggestions by offering praise or implementing an awards scheme. Not only does this provide a great incentive to contribute, but it also demonstrates how the organisation really values creative thinking. To put this into practice, you could propose that each employee thinks of a suggestion to improve a particular work process, then follow this up by thanking each employee for their contribution. This can then be reinforced with a reward and, most vitally, eventual implementation of the best contribution.

Feeling valued and seeing their views being acted upon can often be the greatest source of motivation for employees. In fact, a recent study by King’s College London and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that employees who felt they were being listened to were more likely to rate themselves as creative, be more prolific in their output in a creative task, and produce higher-quality work.

5. Put Ideas into Action

If creativity is the thinking process, then innovation involves the actual implementation of original ideas and suggestions. Implementing the best suggestions is a great way to show that you take your employees’ ideas seriously.  

Perhaps one of the best examples of employee-driven innovation was the creation of Amazon Prime. Amazon’s internal website for employers has an online ideas box where employees are encouraged to submit suggestions for improvement. One employee, Charlie Ward, suggested offering free shipping to boost customer loyalty. Amazon saw potential in this idea, took it on board and incorporated the concept into its Amazon Prime membership program. Today, Amazon Prime has over 100 million paying members.

In Summary…

A creative team is one that draws on a diverse range of skills and strengths, encourages collaboration and healthy debate, understands failure as a key part of the learning process and, above all, treats individual ideas with respect. And done right, this will over time lead to an innovative organisation – one which not only values the creative process, but actively puts the best ideas into practice.

Developing a creative culture takes time, but when we examine the benefits it has for the organisation, it’s clear to see that it’s an investment worth making. Start small if needed – ten minutes here and there is all it takes to get the ball rolling.

After all, Rome wasn’t built – or envisioned – in a day.

If you’re looking for the right blend to encourage a more creative approach to learning in your organisation, we’ve got the tools and expertise to help you succeed. Request a demo to arrange to speak to one of our experts.

In the next post, we’ll be looking at some simple steps you can take and tools you can use to encourage creativity in your organisation. Keep an eye on our blog and social media channels to see when these insights are published:

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thinqi logo
Natalie Ann Holborow
Digital Content Specialist