Creativity and Thinking in the Workplace

February 27, 2010

I recently attended a Creative Thinking workshop facilitated by Aaron Downes of Creative Development. A very interesting workshop, it made me think about whether organisations allow or suppress thinking in the workplace.  Do we foster independent thinking amongst our employees or is creativity frowned upon?

The greater use of standardised systems – such as reward and performance management – the greater danger that creativity is stifled as employees work to those standards only.  Equally managers feel constrained to manage and reward employee’s performance within a narrow defined range of objectives.  The systems become an end in themselves rather than a means to a better organisation. Such systems can straightjacket creativity by taking risk out of the equation.  When your reward – be it money or recognition – depends on not making mistakes, employees have little incentive to do other than play it safe.

What can organisations do to encourage creativity?  Crucially, organisations need to begin to develop a culture that values creativity, risk and failure.  They also need to give staff the tools to think different – be it De Bono’s Lateral Thinking or Go Mad’s Thinking Framework.  Finally, they need to give manager’s the space to allow staff to make mistakes without the fear of short term consequences.