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The third industrial revolution, the digital revolution, is defined as the mass adoption of automation and digitisation through computers, the internet, and alternative energy sources.

Much like those that proceeded it, businesses tend to focus on the efficiencies this revolution has created. So, while digitisation has impacted white-collar work significantly, it still feels like we measure its value based on traditional manufacturing-type outcomes.

One of the early promises of digitisation was that it would take us away from the mundane and redirect human resources to higher-value tasks. No one can argue with the efficiencies businesses have achieved in the past 2-3 decades, however, has this created an unhealthy obsession with optimisation? Has it shifted our focus too far towards striving to become more productive…for better, faster or cheaper options…at the cost of creativity?

This is important to consider because creativity is where your competitive advantage lies. For long-term category differentiation and enduring customer value, you need creative thinking. The lateral perspective that computers can’t yet effectively replicate. The thinking that will set your business apart from your competitors.

‘Creativity’ has traditionally been a term used to describe only those in alternative or creative industries. Today, it is being embraced in offices around the world with some of the top companies investing significantly in it.

Examples like Google’s “20% program”, where developers have permission to spend 20% of their work hours on a creative project of their own, demonstrate the increasing importance placed on creative thinking to help businesses adapt to rapid change and find new ways to grow.

While Google’s example may feel a bit extreme, we’ve put together our top five ways to foster creativity in your workplace and help your business evolve, not just optimise.

  1. Embrace diversity in your business:

Many businesses continue to hire from within their industry and often leaders hire people from the same mould. In today’s ‘candidates’ market’, there’s no better time to consider people with unique skills and diverse backgrounds to bring a fresh perspective to your culture and remove those category biases.

  1. Give directions, not orders:

While innovation requires a relatively hands-off management approach, it does require giving people a guiding light. Provide goals and aspirations, not step-by-step tasks. In other words, create the gap, but don’t do the work for others to fill it. Empower them to embrace the challenge.

  1. Let people test their creativity:

Don’t saddle people with your core business problems, start them off with more contained challenges and let them learn. Giving them less prominent issues to tackle allows you to be gentler with feedback which will encourage them to be bolder with their thinking.

  1. Don’t start with saying ‘how’ or ‘but’:

Ideas are most often stifled by a manager’s initial response being scepticism or by their first request to see the implementation plan. When you mix the creative process with tactical thinking you fail to produce anything new.

  1. Support failure:

If you don’t challenge yourself, or the status quo, you won’t grow. This is not to say you should support poorly thought-through efforts, but rather, support those who attempt to create unique value and encourage exploration. Talk to the team about these failures and do so positively.

At Be Challenged, we’re often engaged to come into businesses and help break the ineffective patterns of problem-solving by giving teams new tools to help attack problems and roadblocks differently.

One of our feature programs in this area is Animate. Animate is a creative, stop-frame animation team event designed to get team members creative while working together to tell one cohesive story. By delivering a digital animation sequence teams are required to find the perfect balance of creativity and delivery, making sure they deliver a final sequence by the end of the event. Check it out here

If you’re interested to hear more about Animate or any of our other creative thinking programs, please get in touch.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Sheer

Joint Managing Partner, Be Challenged

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