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How Can Leaders Foster Creativity?

Creativity is the lifeblood of innovation and for leaders, fostering it within their teams is essential for staying ahead in a rapidly evolving world. In this article, I will discuss practical approaches leaders can take to nurture innovation within their organisations. Let’s go.

Share Learning and Wins

It’s important that we don’t create a culture where we only share our wins, learning from challenges or things that didn’t go as planned are equally important. When only wins are publicised, it breeds perfectionism that discourages risk-taking. Leaders always set the tone, so think of this way - will learnings be seen as opportunities to grow, or occasions for blame? 

Allow People To Experiment and Take Risks  

Effective leaders grant their teams the autonomy, time, and necessary resources to conduct controlled trials of ideas. It’s funny how when we think about science, that experimentation before implementation makes perfect sense.  However, sometimes it's easy to forget this in the workplace.  Testing and piloting new ideas allows your team to take risks with implementing new ideas in a way that is safer than building out the full concept or simply doing nothing at all.

Promote Diverse Perspectives

Bringing together diverse people is good for innovation. I witnessed firsthand the effect of introducing a very different thinker in one of my previous team. The infusion of their different perspectives led to more comprehensive and well-rounded solutions. But diversity must be actively cultivated to avoid groupthink pressures.  

Learn Through Doing

People absorb knowledge fully only through experience, not instruction because there’s more retention of skills through practice. Learning from personal experimentation is also a good avenue for learning. It's essential to offer opportunities for individuals to engage in active discovery within a supportive framework, allowing them to learn and grow through practical application.

Allow People to Choose How They Achieve Their goals

Allowing autonomy in goal achievement better engages individuals than directives do. This approach encourages team members to take ownership of their work methods, promoting a sense of ownership and accountability conducive to creativity and innovation.  This way you can be firm on what needs to be achieved but allow them to be creative in how they will do it.

Creating a Safe and High Trust Environment

I’ve worked for some leaders in the past where they’ve said “this is a safe and high trust environment, and I want you to be innovative”, but when I suggested something new or challenged how things were done, I could tell they got mad and frustrated. Or have you experienced a time where you’ve tried something new and it hasn’t gone to plan and your leader has become irate? These examples are what a non safe and non high trust environment can look like, and it can be a blind spot for some leaders.  People need to be able to feel safe in an environment to try new things and to be supported even if things don’t go to plan, and as leaders how we respond is what sets the tone for this, a lot less than what we say.

Fostering creativity within teams is essential for driving innovation and staying ahead in today's fast-paced world. By embracing these strategies, leaders can empower their teams to explore new ideas, take calculated risks, and drive meaningful change.

How do you encourage creativity and innovation within your team? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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