Team Strategies to Boost Creativity

 Many experts agree that encouraging your team to think outside of the box and explore their creative side helps to foster innovation, improve problem solving and increase productivity. This goes beyond the occasional brainstorming meeting. We’re talking about creating an environment where almost anything goes except worrying about budgets, deadlines and what the boss may think.

Take Piear Gelardi, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Refinery29, the award-winning digital agency. Once a month, she gathers staff in her office—also known as ‘the peach pit’—where they sip champagne, nibble on peach-flavored candy and pretty much say anything that comes to their minds. Oh, and any discussions about budgets or timelines are strictly forbidden! The result: an environment where creative ideas and solutions more easily come to life.

There are a number of steps you can take to create a ‘peach pit’ of your own, including establishing a time and space for creative sessions, encouraging innovation and leading team exercises. Here are a few suggestions and techniques to get those creative juices flowing:

  1. Free Space—Bring your team together in one place once a month or once a week for a session of free-flowing ideas. It shouldn’t only happen whene there is problem to solve or a crisis to address. Make these meetings a regular occurrence so people feel relaxed and know what to expect.
  2. No Judging—If someone has an idea or suggestion you don’t particularly care for, don’t immediately shoot it down. In fact, as the team leader, try to keep your opinions to a minimum or at least wait to speak until the end of the meeting to speak. Given the chance, another employee may expand on the idea and take it into a different, yet better direction. The point is, you want everyone to feel comfortable voicing their opinions.
  3. Ban Negativity—To encourage everyone to speak up and not worry about being told that ‘it’s been done before’ or ‘that’s not how we do it’ or ‘it won’t work,’ create a list of those and other negative phrases that can’t be used during the creative session. Have some fun with it: Tell your staff you’ll be keeping score. Whoever uses those phrases the most has to clean up after the meeting.
  4. Ask Questions—Instead of simply announcing a problem such as “The project isn’t successful,” turn it into a question or series of questions. Ask: Who’s been involved? What can be done to improve the process? What steps can be taken to turn this around? Who has some ideas for trying a different approach? This is a way of getting your team to focus on problems as questions that need answers. It allows for the possibilities of coming up with new strategies and solutions.
  5. Team Work—Working in teams will definitely encourage creativity but it may also foster competition. Here are a number of fun exercises to do with your teams to help them work better together:
  • Storyboarding: Using sticky notes, encourage members to write out their ideas for solving a particular problem. Put them all on a board; then organize them into categories, then steps. This lets the team visualize how ideas can connect to ultimately solve an issue.
  • Forced Connections: Here’s an exercise that spurs on creativity. Give your team a list of unrelated items and ask members to pick two or more of them. Then they must figure out ways the items can be connected. It doesn’t matter if the results make sense or are silly…what matters is those involved come up with creative solutions they may not have thought about before.
  • Questioning Assumptions: This is a perfect way to show how assumptions can and should be challenged. Create a list of assumptions (true or false) about a current project, then discuss and question each assumption. Try doing this during different stages of a project. It will allow for new ideas and will also show the team where work needs to be done or what questions need to be answered.