Creating a Culture of Creativity

by Michael Grant & Cathy Bouwers, Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science

Creativity doesn’t just happen.  If you want your team to start taking more innovative approaches to solving organizational problems, then you need to first take a look at your culture.

Our organization, the Canadian Society for Medical laboratory Science (CSMLS), is proud of our culture that encourages out-of-the-box thinking in a supportive and stimulating environment. At the same time, we are a not-for-profit organization, funded through our membership. So, 3pm lattes and ping pong tournaments are not part of our world. That doesn’t mean our creativity doesn’t thrive.

Here are five ways your team can start developing the culture needed to create novel, award-calibre projects – all without draining your bank account.

Watch for inspiration

Great work is all around us.  But when things get busy – and let’s face it, that’s all the time – we often get tunnel vision and focus on getting through the day-to-day needs. It’s hard to be creative when you’re constantly treading water.  It is important for teams to make time to exist in a creative head space.  Book meetings well in advance, while calendars are still clear, and have team members bring projects, campaigns or ideas they have seen that they liked.  Deconstruct them and talk about what worked, what didn’t and what if anything you could apply to your organization.  Indulge in “what if” conversations and see where the ideas lead you.

Work with leadership

You can’t launch anything edgy or innovative without earning the trust of your organization’s leadership.  One way to start doing this is by speaking leadership’s language. Show that you fully understanding the business needs you are looking to solve. Don’t be creative for the sole purpose of flexing your creative muscles. Always ensure your ideas are strategic. Explicitly draw the connections between your ideas and the organization’s mission, vision and strategic plan. Evaluate all of your projects and show the ROI and contribution they’ve made. Once you’ve landed a few successful projects, it’s easier to pitch bigger or more ‘outside of the box’ ideas.

Foster a little creative abrasion

Good ideas are rarely ever hatched perfectly formed. You need different perspectives and a willingness to challenge each other.  That’s not easy. Everyone on the team needs to trust the intentions of one and other. On our team, we’ve had to learn how to tear apart ideas without tearing apart each other. We are respectful of each other’s ideas but don’t shy away from disagreement. We have to remember that we are helping each other’s ideas reach their fullest potential.

Aim for awesome

We think pretty highly of our abilities and set lofty expectations for ourselves. More often than not, we find ourselves meeting those expectations. If the goal of a particular project isn’t very high, if it isn’t award-calibre, then why are you doing it?  Set strong goals for yourself and your team, even if you aren’t quite sure you can accomplish them. The expression ‘why not’ is firmly part of our team’s vocabulary. Try adding it to yours.

Hire great people

It’s completely cliché, but our people really are our greatest strength.  We are a very hands-on team and so we need a group of diverse, highly skilled professionals.  Each team member has their own speciality, but the real magic happens when they combine those skills and different perspectives. So when hiring, rather than looking at a candidate’s skills in isolation, consider what they can add to the collective.  Look at skills outside of their job description and actively foster new skill development. Once you’ve got great people on your team, get out of their way and let them shine.

How do you foster creativity on your team or within your organization? Let us know in the comments section below.

Be sure to register for the Engaging Associations Forum.  We’re presenting a session called Creativity on a Dime: Big Engagement Ideas on Small Budgets, on Thursday July 20th at 11am.  Please join us so we can connect.

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