By Mark Miller, co-author of “Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life“
In today’s challenging economic times, creative thinking is more valuable than ever. Not creative for creativity’s sake — creativity to solve real business problems. Many of the ideas of the past are no longer relevant. As a seasoned leader shared with me recently, “The half-life of ideas is decreasing rapidly.”
So what’s our response? We need more and better ideas. The good news: creating new, value-added ideas is what teams do best. However, creativity in a team environment is not automatic.
There are some things that leaders can do to increase the creative output of their team. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
When you establish the role of your team, be sure to highlight the expectation that the team will create fresh, new solutions to the problems you face.
The skills of creativity can be learned. To learn them, they must be taught. Schedule time to conduct training for your team. This can take many forms. It can be as brief as a micro session on effective brainstorming (before your next brainstorming session) to multi-day training sessions and everything in between. The point is simple – train your team on the skills of creativity.
Creative thinking and problem solving are skills – just like golf, tennis or a foreign language. Like any skill, you get better with practice. Look for opportunities for your team to practice the skills you’ve learned. Practice builds competence and competence builds confidence.
The actions that you reward will be repeated. That’s human nature. That’s one reason you need to recognize not just the successes but the effort as well. Not every creative endeavor will be successful. That’s normal. If you’ve been operating in a culture in which creativity has not been valued, recognizing creative effort will be even more critical. People are paying attention. They want to know if it’s really safe to voice new ideas.
People always watch the leader – whether we want them to or not. Do your people see you embracing creative ideas? Do they see you engaged in the process of creating new ideas? You can accelerate the adoption of creative thinking as a skill if you personally get in the game. If you don’t, you’ll need to temper your expectations of groundbreaking new ideas from your team.
Teams are probably at their best when they’re engaged in the creative process. They are leveraging their collective wisdom and experience to create what previously did not exist. One of the most satisfying and productive things leaders can do is create the conditions to harness this creative potential. Start today and get ready to be amazed at what your team will do!
Mark Miller, co-author of “Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life“, is vice president, training and development, for Chick-fil-A. During his career he has served in corporate communications, restaurant operations, quality and customer satisfaction, and numerous other leadership positions. He began his Chick-fil-A career in 1977 working as an hourly team member. He is the author of “The Secret of Teams” and the coauthor of “The Secret“.