Business leaders tirelessly chase productivity. Everything we do -- every hiring decision, every software purchase, every reorganization -- all boils down to wringing out just a little bit more. Productivity is the turning of the gears, the day-to-day execution and (hopefully) excellence that keeps the lights on and the numbers in the black.
Creativity, on the other hand, is inherently disruptive. It's the burst and spark of a new idea so brilliant that it interrupts whatever you’re doing just so you can get it onto paper. At a glance, it also appears to be completely opposed to productivity. You can’t quantify it. You can’t measure it. It simply is. That’s great for developing big ideas but maybe not so much for those looming deadlines.
Can productivity and creativity really be balanced or are they fundamentally at odds with one another? I believe that creativity leads to productivity, provided that the workplace environment is developed and nurtured in a way that allows the two to peacefully co-exist.
Here are five ways that fostering creativity in your organization leads to productivity:
1. Encouraging creativity promotes working without boundaries. No one knows where the next big idea will come from, but I can tell you where it won’t come from: the land of “we’ve always done it this way.” Innovative ideas -- whether they’re for a fresh product or simply a new, more productive workflow process -- are the emerging competitive battlegrounds for businesses.
Shaping environments where creativity can flourish turns work into a place without boundaries, where the methodologies and processes of last year can be forgotten in an instant. When your employees are free to always question, they’ll never get stuck in unproductive ruts.
2. It tackles bigger problems. Productivity is often envisioned as dealing with the same tasks time and time again, as efficiently as possible. While in many ways this is great for your business, it prevents your workers from challenging themselves to tackle bigger problems and this is one of the primary reasons why the “we’ve always done it this way” mind-set can become so prevalent.
Encouraging creative thinking leads to employees' seeing the bigger picture and leveraging productive focus on issues with a deeper business impact. While the creative process can seem less productive than simply churning out work, by ultimately transitioning those efforts to bigger-picture problems, workers’ productivity becomes more meaningful -- and the business flourishes.
3. Fostering creativity shows employees that they can change their workplace. Letting people make a visible, tangible impact on their work environment is a powerful motivator. No one wants to feel like a drone, mindlessly working through a task list having no apparent meaningful impact.
One of the keys to nurturing a creative workplace is to give all workers a way to voice their ideas. And by surfacing those ideas with your entire organization, you simultaneously make workers feel valued and spread new, innovative thinking throughout your business.
This isn’t just a boon for productivity; it has the pleasant side effect of also improving loyalty.
4. It gets people emotionally invested. Work without passion is, quite simply, drudgery. For many people, especially entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, that passion comes as easily as breathing. But for some, sparking that passion in the workplace requires a little more motivation. Regardless of their department or role, workers who participate in the creative process can take ownership of an idea rather than a to-do list.
When staffers can own and nurture an idea from the beginning all the way to its execution, they become more passionate and emotionally invested and will work that much harder to see that idea -- their idea -- come to life.
5. Promoting creativity removes the fear of failure. A key component of fostering a creative environment is giving people the freedom to fail. The fear of failure cripples creative environments and hamstrings the flow of ideas and ultimately productivity. Fear keeps us coloring between the lines, removing all possibility of improving, streamlining or creating new and more effective ways to work.
Failure that arises in the pursuit of new ideas should be celebrated. This encourages innovative thinking, and it’s through innovation that new productivity heights are realized.