Fostering creativity and innovation in teams: A framework for businesses

A lightbulb made up of a scrumpled ball of yellow paper and a pen outline

The World Economic Forum’s latest Future of Jobs Report found that creative thinking was ranked as the second most important skill for workers, and was the skill predicted to be most in demand in future. Ahead of World Creativity and Innovation Day, celebrated on the 21st of April (with activity from 19th – 21st April), our team reflected on why creativity is so important for successful teams and how we support organisations to enhance creativity and innovation in their teams.

Understanding creativity and innovation

There has been much debate surrounding how we define creativity and innovation. However, it is widely accepted that creativity is the ability to generate novel ideas, concepts, or solutions, while innovation involves implementing these creative ideas to bring about tangible results. In essence, creativity often directly fuels innovation, making it crucial for organisations to cultivate both aspects.

One of our founding directors, Dr Máire Kerrin, reflects on her long-term collaboration with the Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice at Bayes Business School, City, University of London. “Over the last decade or so, I have learnt so much in working alongside colleagues in the Centre, which hosts a multi-disciplinary team, all actively involved in the areas of creativity and innovation. What is so different is the varied approaches and perspectives to exploring the topic, drawn from the arts, computer science and even the legal profession to provide practical solutions to enhancing creativity and innovation in organisations.” 

The importance of creativity in teams

Teams play a pivotal role in driving organisational success. Collaborative efforts harness diverse perspectives, fuelling creativity and innovation. Here are some key reasons why fostering creativity within teams is imperative:

Problem-solving

Creative teams excel in identifying and solving complex challenges by thinking outside the box and exploring unconventional solutions.

Adaptability

Creativity enables teams to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances, facilitating agility and resilience in the face of uncertainty.

Competitive edge

Organisations with creative teams are better positioned to innovate products, services, and processes, often gaining a competitive edge in the market.

Employee engagement

Nurturing creativity fosters a sense of purpose and fulfilment among team members, driving higher levels of engagement and retention.

Strategies for fostering creativity in teams

Creativity may not come naturally to everyone, but with the right encouragement and leadership, your team might surprise you. Emma Morley, Associate Director at WPG, delivered a workshop at the BMJ Leaders Live conference last year that focused on how leaders can foster a culture of innovation within their teams. “Significant research exists on how leadership behaviours can influence an organisational culture that promotes innovation,” Emma says.  “Relationships between employees and their line managers are directly related to how the employee perceives the working culture, so you can see why leaders play a key role in influencing innovation”. 

Here’s how, as a leader, you can promote innovation and creativity within your team. 

Encourage diverse perspectives

Foster an inclusive environment where team members feel empowered to express their unique viewpoints and ideas. Diversity sparks creativity by bringing together a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.

Promote psychological safety

Create a culture of psychological safety where team members feel comfortable taking risks and sharing their ideas without fear of judgement or reprisal. One of the most effective ways of promoting creativity is for your team to see you modelling this behaviour, being optimistic, and open to sharing and hearing, as well as trying new ideas. We’ve previously explored how leaders can stifle innovation and creative ideas here

Making sure your team feels safe and acknowledged is the foundation for them to thrive. Emma elaborates on this, “By providing encouragement and empowerment at work, leaders can have a broad-ranging impact on innovation, and productivity, at work. Giving employees autonomy builds trust within teams, allowing employees to feel safe and able to share new ideas, or try new things.” Emma continues, “By acting as role models for innovation, and showing support to their team for their innovative attempts, leaders can create an ‘environment for innovation’.”

Once you have the trust that Emma mentions, here’s how to kindle that creative spark. 

Provide resources and support

Equip teams with the necessary resources, tools, and training to fuel their creative endeavours. Invest in training programmes that foster creative thinking, such as design thinking workshops or ideation sessions.

Foster collaboration

Encourage collaboration and cross-functional teamwork to leverage diversity of thought. Facilitate brainwriting sessions, collaborative projects, and interdisciplinary teams to stimulate creativity and innovation.

Collaborating across your group in new and interesting ways is really rewarding, and will encourage better communication throughout your team into the future. 

Celebrate success and failure

Celebrate both successes and failures as learning opportunities. Recognise and reward innovative ideas and initiatives, regardless of the outcome, to reinforce a culture that values experimentation and risk-taking.

Exploring markers of creativity in assessment

Traditional assessments can fall short of capturing what creativity and creative thinking really mean. However, by incorporating specific markers of creativity into assessment, businesses can better identify individuals who possess the innovative thinking needed to drive organisational success. 

In a selection or development context, this can look like:

Problem-solving

How candidates approach problems can be a key indicator of creative thinking. Máire suggests that employers,  “Look for candidates who demonstrate a propensity for creativity in their problem-solving approach. Creativity often manifests in the ability to devise novel solutions to familiar problems.” If someone’s solution to a problem is unconventional, it could be a good indicator of their creativity. 

Originality

Assess candidates’ capacity to generate original and inventive ideas across various domains.  Emma shares that “Idea generation is a key indicator of creativity; those who are able to generate novel ideas and concepts can contribute significantly to innovation within an organisation.” Look for evidence of creativity in past projects, initiatives, or contributions to brainstorming sessions.

Flexibility and adaptability

Evaluate candidates’ flexibility in adapting to new situations, embracing ambiguity, and exploring alternative perspectives. Assess their willingness to experiment with different approaches and pivot when faced with obstacles or setbacks.

Emma continues, “Look for candidates who demonstrate a willingness to embrace new challenges and try different ways of doing things.”

Risk-Taking

Evaluate candidates’ willingness to take calculated risks and challenge the status quo. Look for evidence of innovative thinking and experimentation, even in situations where failure is a possibility. Emma continues, “Creativity often requires embracing uncertainty. Look for candidates who demonstrate a willingness for risk-taking, balanced with sound judgement.”

 

At WPG, we’ve previously worked with businesses such as Saint-Gobain PAM (SG PAM) to develop innovation within their teams. You can find out more about this collaboration here. We also regularly deliver interactive workshops for organisations or at conferences on this subject matter. 

Creativity and innovation can have a huge impact on organisational growth and competitiveness. Get in touch with us today to find out more about how we could support you to enhance creativity and innovation in your team.