Fostering creativity and innovation in the workplace

Published on Business stage: Scaling, Starting, Unlocking

Last week, it was World Creativity and Innovation Day. One of the UN’s designated international days, it’s aimed at encouraging “creative multidisciplinary thinking to help us achieve the sustainable future we want.”

The UN notes that the creative economy “is a highly transformative sector of the world economy in terms of income generation, job creation and export earnings” and that the cultural and creative industries “are among the most dynamic sectors in the world economy, generating $2.25 billion in revenue and 29.5 million jobs worldwide.”

Few would contest the UN’s assertion that “innovation is essential for harnessing the economic potential of nations,” or indeed that the same applies to businesses. The difficulty, of course, is in harnessing innovation, applying it to areas where value can be delivered, or simply understanding what that value is.


Solving problems: It goes without saying that creativity and innovation help to solve problems, but creative and innovative processes are not always applied to problem-solving within businesses, or to all types of problems. Too often, businesses approach the same problems in the same ways when applying creative and innovative approaches can often provide more effective solutions to problems, be they internal or for clients, large or small.

Improving productivity: The most direct effect of fostering creativity and innovation within an organisation is simply achieving more for less work. By finding more varied and unconventional solutions to challenges, organisations increase the chances of finding one that is more efficient at getting results.

Delivering competitivity: More productive businesses are, by definition, more competitive. But value for money isn’t the only measure of competitivity that is driven by creativity and innovation. The ability to offer up more interesting solutions or ideas to clients also sets businesses apart.


Take risks, fail fast: Canadian ice hockey player and coach Wayne Gretzky famously observed: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” For businesses, this translates to testing new ideas and approaches – you won’t know if they work unless you try them. The key is to start small and know when to call it a day – it’s fine for something not to work if you have something else to move onto.

Structure thinking: Although it’s easy to think that great ideas come from creatively minded people dreaming them up through blue-sky thinking, but in reality they are more effectively generated by following structured approaches that are designed to facilitate ideas in a targeted way. This video from J&Smart provides a great overview of how ideas can be generated in a structured way, with a specific focus on business growth.

Find time: Effective creative thinking needs time dedicated to it. When individuals are constantly working to capacity on business-as-usual work, then business-as-usual work is all they will produce. Ensuring enough time is set aside for people to research, workshop and develop ideas helps to foster innovation.

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