Management Insight: How to Foster Creative Teams & Nurture Innovation

Fostering team creativity and innovation.

Teams and leaders alike often find themselves faced with an utter lack of creativity. This can be asking questions like, “does my team not feel energized by our mission, or is it something else?” Luckily, the steps below can help spark creativity and innovation within your team.

Now is an ideal time to review the basic aspects of your team members’ jobs and question if there are new ways to complete day-to-day tasks. Often, people can be hyper-focused on the traditional way of doing their job, falling into a pattern of completing tasks and interacting with team members in a routine manner. By reviewing the basics, your team gets the chance to review each of their tasks and find creative solutions to existing problems.

Take a Recruiting Team for example. Re-mixing the routine can be as simple as switching the time of the day you review a candidate’s resume. Another option could be breaking up the number of resumes you review in one sitting. That same Recruiting Team can also leverage a rotating method of the order they organize their workday with the amount of time spent on each task. 

It may seem counterintuitive to focus on the basics to inspire innovation, yet, it can be freeing to come back to the basics to shift your perspective on tasks. Similarly, after coming back from vacation, employees feel refreshed and renewed to engage with their work. The same level of mindfulness and creativity is achieved when taking a break to incorporate a level of playful thinking into the routine. 

This is a misconception that the Google’s and Facebook’s of the world are the only companies that can be highly innovative. But as a manager, there are simple, low-cost options to encourage innovation. Incorporate a day of play, encouraging employees to try a new activity outside of the office or spend time visiting something new in their communities. Team building ideas to inspire creativity could be having the team try a cooking class, go horseback riding, or learn to salsa dance. These activities all involve being open and trying something new which lends itself to the professional aspect of creativity. Encouraging colleagues to do the activity together also creates a sense of teamwork, especially when the activity is new for everyone. 

Fostering creativity amongst your team also includes setting guidelines. We’ve found that there are team members who prefer having a few guiding principles to help inspire what they will create. Creating a designated space and structure where your team can be creative is crucial.

Prioritizing and encouraging creative thoughts ensures that all members feel comfortable contributing. This could entail approaching your team with a set group of questions or leveraging a whiteboard with columns divided to shout out words to encourage participation from all team members. These themes developed by you as the leader will help guide the discussion for your employees who may need more guidance versus a completely blank canvas.

Additionally, we have found that teams can generate creativity and innovation by taking a step back and acting as a customer for a day. Challenges presented from the business viewpoint will not be as easily visible to internal teams, and by becoming the customer, your team will have a more unique perspective on their day-to-day work.

Another option is a business field trip to a non-competitor or direct competitor who will engage in discussions and share industry best practices. It’s essential to take your team on these visits or virtual field trips to inspire and take in the unusual that they can then channel creatively into their role.

With the right mindset and opportunity, remixing tasks, trying new activities or hobbies in and outside of the office, and engaging with competitors leads to creativity and innovation.

Clients who encourage employees to be creative and enable opportunities to regularly mix up their workday cultivate a sense of openness. Fostering creativity and innovation will occur if leadership sends the signal that this is essential to the success of the organization.

For more information on management techniques and team tips, subscribe to our monthly project management newsletter here. In the meantime, check out this blog post on how to conduct Effective Project Status Meetings here.