Being able to be creative at work makes people feel empowered, motivated, inspired, engaged, energised and proud. That’s just some of the words used by respondents to our ‘Creativity at work survey 2015’ – their words, not ours. Which words cropped up the most? Engaged, motivated, energised and empowered, in that order.
We believe it pays for organisations to look a bit deeper into what it means to be creative, how to enhance the creativity of their workforce and why. If it’s so important, organisations need to be encouraging it.
That’s why we conducted this survey. We asked 76 people a few simple, largely open-ended questions in order to find out what they think are the most valuable creative skills in the workplace, how they think those skills can be acquired and what enables creativity to flourish.
Creativity’s positive impact
We asked: ‘Do you think being creative positively impacts any of these things – engagement, motivation, happiness, productivity, worklife balance and profits?’ Respondents said that being creative positively impacts:
- Engagement 91%
- Motivation 97%
- Happiness 88%
- Productivity 89%
- Worklife balance 64%
- Profits 71%
Just as interesting as the numbers is what people said about why creativity at work is important – for them and for their organisation. These are just a handful of the many interesting responses that people gave:
- ‘If new insightful ideas aren’t created by the recombination of existing thoughts and data, we’ll stagnate and atrophy. Our businesses will fail to grow’
- ‘In order to inspire our audiences, we need to be inspired’
- ‘It makes you love your work. It sparks new ideas and keeps you energised’
- ‘Whether you’re trying to grow your business or maintain an existing one, creativity challenges you to question the norm and continuously look for new and better ways of doing things’
Overall, the message from the study is that creativity boosts job satisfaction, innovation and problem solving, among other benefits. It helps organisations maintain a competitive advantage in an agile, tech-powered world and generally leads to better results, products and services. Not to mention a happier, more engaged workforce.
When asked what creative skills are the most valuable in the workplace, several key words stood out in the answers we received back. Again, we didn’t put the words in the respondents’ mouths – they responded with their own words. Thinking was one that was mentioned time and time again, be it lateral thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, thinking out of the box, visual thinking…. Thinking is a very important creative skill!
Also prominent were idea generation, being able to adapt existing ideas, being able to challenge assumptions, collaboration, curiosity and listening. In this study, people skills emerge as a very valuable part of the creative process, whether it’s the ability to listen, to communicate, to empathise, to collaborate or understand customer needs.
One respondent said, it’s about ‘Making connections, making leaps. Being able to communicate in clear ways that brings people with you. Thinking divergently from others and not being squashed if they don’t ‘get it’ immediately’. Someone else said, ‘Listening, dealing with ambiguity, seeing others’ ideas and piecing the picture together’.
What’s certain is that no one skill itself is enough and that different skills need to drawn on for different purposes – such as the ability to think and work independently, but work cohesively with others. People need a whole medley of skills, from those particular to their role to other less tangible skills, such as the ability to listen and work well with others.
How can people and organisations acquire those skills? Is it through training? Are they innate? The best way to learn the skills of creativity is through practice, practice, practice, according to this study. Sixteen of the 76 people interviewed used the word practice. Many others used words with a very similar or the same meaning. Close behind was training, be it workshops, coaching or mentoring. Also, working with other creative people, learning from them and bouncing off ideas. Having the right environment to enable creativity was also highlighted as very important and having managers that empower employees to be creative and allow for mistakes.
What did respondents think would help them be even more creative? An improved culture of creativity was cited as the top way to boost creativity, followed by organisations allowing employees more time and space to be creative.
The good news is that many of the respondents reported good levels of personal creativity at work already. When asked to rate how creative they generally feel at work, the most common rating was seven out of ten (24%), followed by eight (15%), six (14%) and five (13%). One person gave a score of one and two a score of ten.
Compare this to the ratings given on how creative the respondents generally feel outside of work – eight received the highest rating (26%), followed by seven (24%) and five, six and nine all received ratings by 13% of respondents. The lowest score was three (one person) and 11% gave a rating of 10.
So, definite room for improvement in terms of creativity at work, but it looks like a lot of organisations already realise the benefits of creativity to a certain extent.