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Creating an environment that fosters creative behavior |7 Habits of Highly Creative Organizations

Creativity is all about impact: on your ability to outperform the competition, on your career, and on the results you deliver to your organization.

Kelsey Ruger, Vice President Design and Innovation of ChaiOne, contests that anyone can increase their creative output with the right focus and environment.

At its core, creativity is the ability to come up with ideas that are novel, relevant, and focused on the problem at hand.
When companies understand it, creative intelligence represents a huge opportunity for growth.
In today’s business world, however, this critical ability to approach problems in new and novel ways is both undervalued and underdeveloped.

In order to build a more creative workforce you should not focus on making people more creative; that doesn’t work. You should instead focus on creating an environment that encourages and fosters creative behavior.

To help you frame this for your organization, here are 7 habits and behaviors that top creative organizations have in common.

Balance their focus between problems and solutions: How many times have you heard someone say “Don’t come to me with problems, come with solutions”? Many managers think this way. When they have problems, they immediately look for solutions, without giving the problem a lot of thought. Organizations that understand the habit of creativity know that creativity emerges from problems not creations… Instead of focusing purely on solution-oriented activities like brainstorming and idea generation, they also focus on activities intended to continuously uncover and explore problems.

Balance creative thinking, creative risk and creative action: Sometimes, it’s possible that traditional ideas about creativity actually get in the way of being creative. Let’s take brainstorming for example…. Lots of talk, a ton of ideas, but not many actionable steps or an environment that supports work on ideas that aren’t 100% predictable. When you couple that with the fact that many companies don’t have an effective way to try ideas without extensive planning, it’s easy to see why their creative progress is slow.

Organizations that have the creative habit believe that while coming up with lots of ideas is critical, getting started on ideas is more valuable than trying to perfect them.

Embrace periods of playtime: Companies that have the creative habit purposefully break away from the traditional ideas of “being serious at work.” This allows employees to get better at dealing with ambiguity, complexity and improvisation. These are the very things that drive play and creativity… By turning creative time into play-time, you will spark more frequent and impactful creative ideas.

Differentiate between execution and exploration: In order for your brain to see and connect the patterns that lead to creativity, it needs downtime… creativity happens when your brain isn’t operating at full speed.

Creative companies know that if you want to optimize creative talents you have to allow people time to work on innovation when they aren’t worried about projects, deadlines or other work-related concerns. Whether it’s a few minutes a day, or a few hours a week, take time to let your mind relax and be creative.

Encourage curiosity: Curiosity is the root of creativity. Creative companies know that people who are inherently curious tend  to learn in ways that people who depend only on their expertise can’t. As a rule they want their employees to consistently ask questions of others around them (and themselves), especially in situations where they may already be an expert.

Externalize creativity with diverse groups
Creative solutions are rarely the result of an epiphany. Most creative solutions are the result of combining elements that existed before. Think about Apple’s creation of the iPod. Apple didn’t invent the touch screen phone or the MP3 player. The technology existed and in fact there was potentially better technology in both categories. All Apple did was understand that everything they build is about empathy, connection, engagement, and interaction, and put together the best team of people to design and market the device. In a time when skills are becoming more and more specialized, creativity has increasingly become a group process, requiring many skills and disciplines to work optimally. To take advantage of this, creative companies encourage prototyping and sharing often. When a creative idea occurs they want it to be externalized so that they will be rewarded when people do make connections. Those connections are the final pieces that ultimately create moments of insight.

Know that being creative isn’t about art or being smart: Many times employees work in environments that thrive on showing how smart they are… People are comfortable reapplying a formula that has worked in the past. Whether this is an aversion to risk, or a dependency on an educational process that is heavy on case studies, they just try to use a template from an existing success, which is the reason we see so many copycat products and copycat strategies.

Creative companies know that if you are afraid of being wrong or “not smart” it’s going to be difficult to lead the creative process… If you want to be original, then you have to get past this first layer of predictability.


Kelsey Ruger helps companies discover and cultivate inspiring ways to create experiences people love. As Vice President of Design & Innovation for Houston based ChaiONE (chaione.com), Kelsey designs and develops new forward-looking products for ChaiONE and its customers. He is particularly interested in the impact emerging technology can have on business and personal productivity.

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