Incorporating Creativity into Small Business Strategy
The value of creativity gets a lot of lip service in small business forums and blogs, however when it comes to actually promoting these values internally, it can be difficult to know where to start. The very real factors of intimidation on the part of employees who come up with new ideas, a lack of communication structure that puts new thoughts in front of decision makers and inertia in terms of the status-quo mean that implementing creative ideas can take a heavy time investment. More likely, these ideas will get brushed aside as busy people continue to do what they are comfortable doing. Another reality that must be taken into account surrounding the promotion of creative ideas in a small business setting is the fact that not all ideas are created equal. Some will be easier to put into practice than others, some will be stronger in general, and some will be a waste of time. In order to allow for new ideas to be effectively collected and implemented, there are a few things that business owners can do that will create a freer flow of new information within the workplace.
Create a designated space for new ideas. Having a white board, drop box or other means of collecting new ideas in the office is a great way to not only make your employees aware that creativity is a good thing and that their ideas are welcome, but visibly show off that creativity. A full white board is a comforting sight, as it shows you and your employees that there are great thoughts going on in your office at all times. If your employees are uncomfortable with contributing to a communal creative space, or they want to ensure that their ideas are credited to them, then setting up a suggestion box in the office, or potentially an email account that they can send good ideas to is a better strategy.
Consider an open door policy. A well managed open door policy will benefit your business in a few key ways. For one thing, it will increase the connection between all levels of management and foster improved morale, as your employees will appreciate that you are willing to listen to them. The danger posed by an open door policy is that you will be bombarded by requests or trivial ideas and lose valuable working time. You can mitigate this risk by clearly demarcating who is responsible for the leadership of each department in your organization, so that you are not personally asked every time someone wants to change the color of the company logo or plan a get-together.
Reward improvements to efficiency. If an employee thinks of a way to save time on a task, and their idea pays off, be sure to give them a shout out or small reward. Don’t over-reward so as to avoid jealousy, but point out the positive change in order o set an example for your other employees. The challenge is to encourage open and creative thinking without turning work time into a quest to come up with an idea that merits a reward, so think very carefully about what you do for your worker. Simple ways of saying thanks are also a great morale booster.
Delegate the implementation of good ideas. If your employees give you a legitimately good idea, then you should take the steps you need to in order to pursue that idea, or rather, ensure that your employees do. Don’t wait on it, rather, put someone in charge of the implementation of the idea so that it does not simply get forgotten over time. Delegation is the key to effective management, as if you simply heap projects onto your own stack, you run the risk of not being able to finish all that you set out to do.
Photo Credit to Eran Sandler on Flickr