The Surprising Key to Ramping Up Productivity: Creativity

BrandPost By Nathan Rawlins
Mar 08, 2021
IT Leadership

Innovative thinking, a culture of experimentation, and connecting employees to a mission all enhance productivity.

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Credit: iStock

Sometimes creativity and productivity are seen as at odds with one another. Creativity is often framed as organic, unpredictable, and hard to quantify. Productivity, on the other hand, is perceived as structured, planned, and tied to performance metrics. 

However, by facilitating and embracing creativity, businesses can actually increase meaningful productivity across their teams. 

How creativity drives productivity

Rather than hindering productivity, creativity actually enhances it in three ways: fueling innovative thinking, creating a culture of experimentation, and connecting employees to a meaningful mission.

First, business leaders need to facilitate and encourage creative, innovative thinking. This practice surfaces the next big ideas and drives strategic planning as people think about existing problems and potential solutions through activities like brainstorming sessions and ideation workshops. Without this creative vision, checklists, action plans and road maps typically associated with productivity are meaningless.  

In conjunction with facilitating innovative thinking, creating a culture of creative experimentation is also key to driving productivity. Creativity embraces the potential for failure that comes with experimentation. Some might think that experimentation – or providing employees with the space to try new ideas even if they may fail or go against the norm – is the antithesis of productivity. However, creative exploration is a necessary counterbalance to the constraints of productivity, creating space for teams to identify innovative solutions and new ideas to move the business forward.

There are ways to structure creativity to mitigate potential risks and maintain momentum toward overall objectives. For example, leaders can facilitate specific events geared toward unleashing creativity, such as hackathons or mind mapping sessions. These types of events inspire creative thinking, but provide helpful time boundaries.

When we invest in creativity, the returns are the big ideas that power innovation and engagement across our teams. Some of the biggest, most profitable ideas emerge from creative exploration.

Finally, creativity is the spark that lights company missions, and it’s these missions that inspire employees. People aren’t deeply motivated by deadlines and quotas; those are surface-level motivators. Research from McKinsey shows that across 100 variables, purpose has the greatest impact on motivation. Additional studies highlight that purpose-oriented employees are more engaged, fulfilled and high-performing and have the highest levels of retention. All of these factors dramatically increase productivity across the board.

Creativity and productivity during remote work

Unfortunately, the shift to remote work has negatively impacted people’s access to creative collaboration and, ultimately, to productivity. According to Lucid’s first-party research, 22% of remote workers surveyed noted that working from home has hurt their creativity, and one in four managers agree. The reason? Isolation. It can be difficult for distributed teams to tap into the creative energy of in-person ideation sessions. This was the case for 46% of survey respondents, who cited less face time with their team as the main reason their creativity was lagging.

Beyond the isolation of remote work, creativity is hampered by the technological limitations. For example, 40% of those surveyed said that it was just too difficult to collaborate over a call or video conference. When we asked the managers in our sample about remote work and creativity, nearly one in four blamed the decline in creativity on the lack of visual brainstorming sessions and 42% pointed to in-office scenarios, like conference rooms with whiteboards and access to causal gathering spots, as major contributors to past creative success.

So how can organizations encourage creativity in today’s remote work environment? May I suggest three ideas:

  1. Schedule opportunities for creative thinking. Creative thinking can often be overlooked if it doesn’t get time on our calendars. There will always be more meetings and tasks to check off our lists, so it’s important to actually book time for creative activities. For example, our annual hackathons have led to major updates for our product offerings. Teams spend two to three days completely immersed in creative thinking, collaborative innovation and playing with out of the box ideas. The results are fantastic features that bring value to both the product and the company. Additionally, these events boost morale and demonstrate our commitment to creativity and innovation.
  2. Recognize creativity when giving feedback. While performance reviews often focus mainly on productivity, consider incorporating creativity. Give employees the opportunity to share their experiences with creative thinking and make sure they know that you value creativity even if an idea failed. Take time during one-on-one meetings  and performance reviews to discuss creative efforts. Reward those initiatives with encouragement and recognition of how creative thinking contributes to the success of your company.
  3. Provide resources for real time collaboration. There is a clear need for solutions that augment video conferencing platforms, such as virtual whiteboards, to enhance collaboration and connection across remote teams. Virtual whiteboards should not only replicate the in-office experience of working together on a whiteboard, they should enhance it. Collaborative visual brainstorming is a key creative process. Bring your teams together over a shared canvas where they can ideate and innovate together.

 Learn how Lucidspark can enhance your team’s creativity.