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5 Ways to Make Your Company More Creative

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If your team is boring, it’s most likely your fault.

What’s up, guys?

Welcome to another episode of the vlog. Today we’re going to talk about creativity and why I think it is easily one of the most misunderstood aspects of leadership.

Creativity can be cultivated in our people. It can be brought out of individuals in different ways.

People who may not see themselves as creative can come up with new ideas, can find new ways of solving problems that maybe otherwise we couldn’t find solutions to, ways around obstacles, efficiencies, or maybe ways to be more effective in the things we’re already doing.

This only happens if as a leader, the culture, the climate of our organization is one which empowers creativity, which rewards creativity, which provides the opportunity for people to flex their creative muscles even if they don’t know that they have them.

If you’re just finding the show for the first time, I came out of the insurance industry. Before I started working in fitness, I was the Chief Marketing Officer for two different insurance technology companies inside the insurance space.

Creativity and insurance probably aren’t two concepts which go hand in hand quite often.

In both situations we were able to be incredibly successful and productive in spreading new ideas, building audience, building community, and ultimately building larger client bases for the company as a whole by thinking through products from a very creative standpoint and finding ways to draw new ideas, new concepts out of people who traditionally were never encouraged to do so.

If you are finding that your team is boring, if you’re finding that you’re boring, that your company’s boring, if you’re finding just you’re operating in a space of being very boring, here are just a few things you can do to open things up, cultivate some creativity out of your people, yourself, your company, and try to drive some chain, solve some new problems, and just make work in general more fun.

When you’re doing creative work, it’s just fun. It’s just fun to come up with things and substantiate something that didn’t actually exist 10 minutes beforehand. Even if it’s just ultimately erased off the whiteboard and you start again. That’s fun, and it drives energy and enthusiasm.

Again, like all the things that you hear on this show, if it works for you, then that’s awesome. If it doesn’t, just throw it out the window. But this is what I’ve found to work.

Create a Safe Environment to Create

The very first thing that you need to do is make sure the ecosystem that you work in, the space, and that doesn’t mean necessarily just the physical space, is safe for creative ideas.

When I say safe, I mean people can share ideas without ridicule. They can share ideas without feeling like they’re going to be judged. That doesn’t mean that you don’t give feedback.

You absolutely positively have to give feedback on creative ideas.

You have to challenge creative ideas.

You have to press people on their creative ideas.

You have to force them to think deeper into the creative idea than just the surface.

If we were to take on this idea, if we were to implement this idea, where are we going with it? What are its goals?

You must press people and challenge them on their creative ideas. But ridicule, judgment, things like that, those immediately destroy a creative space.

We have to take those out of the culture of the company.

You want people to feel like they can share freely, make mistakes, have stupid ideas, have ideas that have no chance of ever working, have ideas that the company could never fund, have ideas that are completely out of left field because that’s where the brilliant things come from.

That’s where the genius comes from. No one will ever voice those ideas if they feel like they’re ultimately going to be judged or ridiculed by sharing them. If you do anything to increase creativity and make your company less boring, you have to make sure it’s a safe space to share creative ideas.

Build a System to Capture Ideas

Force people to capture their ideas, whether that’s Slack or the notes app on your phone, or they text message themselves. I do a lot of talk to text voice messages.

I’ll just text myself and talk into the phone my idea, and then I have to try to decipher what comes through the talk to text afterwards. But I’m capturing the ideas.

Force your people to capture their ideas.

Obviously you can’t physically force them to do it, but just encourage them over and over.

Bludgeon them with capturing their ideas because if you have a great idea while you’re in the shower, and then you never write it down, then it’s gone. If you’re driving, and you don’t capture that idea, it’s gone.

If you’re walking down the street, and you don’t capture that idea, it’s gone. And then you got to hope that it comes back.

By capturing ideas, you can then cross out the ones that you don’t feel like work or that you don’t want to share and share the ones you can.

And again, it’s a frequency game. Genius and creativity are not like … you get struck by lightning and you have a brilliant idea.

You have 10,000 ideas and one of them is brilliant. But if you don’t put the 10,000 ideas out into the world, you don’t know which one’s the brilliant one because we have no way of picking. We don’t get to choose.

There’s no wrong way to capture ideas, so don’t force them to use one tool. Just get them capturing their ideas in whatever way is the easiest and makes the most sense for them individually.

Whatever fits their personal workflow, but get them capturing ideas.

Challenge Creative Ideas

This is a tough one for a lot of leaders, for a lot of people in general.

And it goes back to our first item in that you have to create a safe space. You have to challenge the creative ideas. You have to press them for more. You have to press your people to think deeper about the idea that they have. You can’t just settle on the idea.

Make them pitch the idea to you. Make them own the idea. Make them want the idea to work. Make them think through the idea fully and almost start picking apart the idea on their own.

This gives them personal ownership of that idea and challenge them to do better. If the idea is weak, tell them that the idea is weak, so that next time when they come back they don’t feel judged for bringing a weak idea.

They just know what constitutes a weak idea. They know what constitutes an idea that hasn’t been fully thought out.

An idea that really isn’t necessarily ready to be shared because every idea should be shared unless you haven’t really considered it. Unless it’s just a fly by the night kind of thing.

It is your job as a leader who doesn’t want their team or their people or their company to be boring, to challenge the ideas that their people bring to them, but in a productive way.

In a way that encourages growth and encourages them to grow as people. That encourages them to generate deeper and richer and stronger and more dynamic ideas.

That’s your role as a leader. It’s hard because especially when you start doing this, people aren’t going to want to hear that.

They’re going to feel like you’re judging them. That’s the fine line that you have to walk.

Challenge without shutting someone down and it takes work. Every single person is going to be different. But that’s why being a leader is hard.

You Don’t Get to Have Ideas

Any idea that makes it out of the brainstorming phase into something that you’re actually going to implement into your company is always going to be someone else’s idea. It is not your role as the leader to take the recognition for yourself.

That’s not what you do.

If you want to lead a team of energetic, enthusiastic, excited, dynamic people who are driving change inside your company, who are creating growth that other teams envy because you guys got something that no one else has, you don’t get to take recognition for that, for those ideas.

You give every other team member recognition.

You are uber humble. You put them on a platform. You put them on a pedestal.

Their name is the one out front, not yours because that reinforces the idea that they’re operating in a safe, creative space. That you’re not going to steal from them, that it’s not a me-first mentality, that you’re giving, and that you’re willing to take a backseat to their creative idea, to their dreams, to what they’re trying to do, to their personal growth.

By doing so, everybody wins. Everybody wins. Very tough to do. Have to be humble, not easy. You don’t get to take credit for ideas even if they’re your own.

Broaden Creative Inputs

And you’re going to read this in just about every article on creativity. You have to broaden your team’s inputs. You have to get them in front of customers.

You need to get them engaging and interacting with other departments in the company, with their vendors, with your clients, with other peers, going to conferences.

Just taking in other inputs because this is where the creativity starts to happen. When you get new ideas crossing each other, and that’s where connections start to get made and your people start to see things, and that maybe from a different angle or a different direction.

Or how someone in a different industry is doing something that can be applied to your own company.

If you’re not allowing them access to a broader set of inputs, you’re never going to allow them to truly be as creative as possible.

This sometimes is hard because people feel like if I send my people to a conference, they’re going to get recruited.

They’re only gonna leave if they don’t like working for you. If they like working for you, they’re going to stay.

You should never really be afraid of anyone going to conferences or interacting with competitors or peers unless you’re a bad leader, or you just aren’t doing a good job, or you’re not creating an environment in which they actually want to stay, or you’re not paying them enough.

All those things are very possible, so do everything you can to broaden the inputs of the people that work for you. Because when you do, they’ll make new and different and strange connections that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise seen, and you will ultimately benefit as a company.

Protect Your Creative Team

Guys, I guess I want to leave you with just one more idea. I think this goes hand in hand with leadership in general. But you become the force field around your team.

If you do decide to move forward and implement an idea and that idea blows up and just doesn’t work, you have to take the shrapnel. You have to be the barrier between any negativity, any hate that comes down on you. You have to bear that decision.

You have to bear that weight.

That’s part of being a leader.

Far too often we want to prop ourselves up as leaders when something goes well and then shrink and blame it on our people when they don’t. That is just … you get to do that one time, and it’s all over.

One time you shrink away from your responsibility of taking care of your people and defending them. One time you shrink away from that, and you’re toast.

They’ll never share their new ideas with you. They’ll start looking for new opportunities, and you’ll have a boring, dull team or dull company that isn’t helping each other, isn’t collaborating, isn’t growing, isn’t making new connections.

That’s not what you want.

I know you want more than that, otherwise, you wouldn’t have made it this far into the video.

5 Ways to Make Your Company More Creative

  1. Give your people a safe space,
  2. Help them capture new ideas,
  3. Broaden their horizons,
  4. Support them,
  5. Defend them when things don’t work.

If you do these things, your team will love you. They’ll be creative and dynamic and enthusiastic and all the words that I just, all the other words that I can’t think of today.

Yours in strength,

Hanley

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