If you ask someone what inspires creativity, they’ll almost certainly produce some sort of list – all the people, places and things that have influenced or expanded their thinking.
But what if finding inspiration really had less to do with what we see and experience and more to do with just finding the right state of mind?
For many of us, creativity comes easiest when all of our other needs are met and we’re relatively stress-free. From a psychological standpoint, this makes perfect sense. If you think back to your Psych 101 class, you might might just remember Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He argued that creativity is a facet of self-actualization, and can only be achieved when other basic needs are met.
So what does this mean for business? Well, if you want creative employees, help them achieve as much of their pyramid as possible.
Nobody’s arguing that you need to coddle your employees, but it is hard to focus if you’re worried about whether you’ll have a job to come to tomorrow or how you’re going to pay our mortgage this month. Letting your employees know that a single failure won’t get them fired and paying them competitively can put their mind to rest about their job and financial security. Research proves that people who feel secure in their jobs are more likely to take creative risks.
Creativity is a social process. The creative mind wants to feel like part of a team; you’re bound to be less stressed when you know others have your back. It’s not enough just to plop a ping pong table or couch in the middle of your office, though. Your employees need to feel welcome (if not encouraged) to put down what they’re working on and exchange ideas … work related or not.
Reward and incentivize creative thinking even if that thinking didn’t necessarily prove helpful to the company (because the next idea just might). Compensation and bonuses are an important way to show an employee just how valuable they are to the company, but they’re not everything. A pat on the back, accolades at a team meeting, or telling them they’re a step further down the path toward promotion, can go a long way to making a creative mind feel good about what they’re doing.
We all have goals and ambitions – both professional and personal. When you ask your employees to focus on the professional goals, it puts their personal ones on the backburner. But getting some of the personal problems out of the way can make it easier to focus on professional problem solving. Giving them the freedom to tackle health goals by going to the gym over lunch, letting them work from home when they have a sick kid or just giving them the ability to work on a hobby is an easy way to free up their mind to focus on the bigger picture.