Fast Company

You Don't Have to Be a "Creative" to Be Creative

What does a person deemed "creative" look like? You might picture a man with horn-rimmed glasses in a long-sleeved black mock turtleneck or a young woman, powered by caffeine, donning the latest fashions. They are certain to come up with the next big idea, the white knight, at each and every brainstorming session, or maybe not.

There is no question that some people are more inventive than others, but is that "right brain" a product of nature or nurture? I like to err on the side of nurture. Sure we have a creative team at Red Door Interactive, but we don't believe in segregating them from the rest of the company. We truly believe that ingenuity can be learned by anyone, it's just a matter of structuring an environment that fosters it. Here are a few ways we go about unlocking the unexpected.

Don't babysit employees. We feel it's important for managers to let each staff member identify their own path of least resistance, much like water. It's not about a CEO setting the goals for the company. Rather, it's about empowering teams and individuals to map out their own plans and objectives to help unleash what's possible. That places an emphasis on creative problem solving right out of the gate. While this requires a great deal of trust and mutual respect, the end result can be a more motivated and inspired workforce.

Create an open environment. Ironically, our offices have no doors, red or otherwise. We constructed Red Door Interactive with an open layout and many meeting spaces to make the most of the real magic that comes from collaboration and bouncing ideas around with others. Constant feedback and communication is enabled by all of us being available openly. We frequently check-in to ensure employees don't feel alone or afraid to ask for help, but not to the point that we get in their way.

Say it, Say it, Say it. If we tell employees they are creative, they will be. The result of this self-fulfilling prophecy is generally a wealth of forward-thinking approaches. We tend to encourage by saying things such as "Wow that was a very innovative way of doing things." If everyone believes they are inventive, they will incorporate that positive reinforcement in all aspects of the business; from human resources to accounting to IT. It's much more than a pat on the back - it's a catalyst for sustainable resourcefulness.

There are numerous examples of ingenuity all around us, such as seedless watermelon, an unexpected mural on the side of a building or the imaginative musings that emerge from a child. Whether it's a product or a process, any business can tap into that same novelty. The most exciting part is the formation of new ideas can come from anyone if leaders work on not only fostering, but supporting a creative culture.

Reid Carr is president of Red Door Interactive, an Internet Presence Management firm with offices in San Diego and Denver that helps organizations profit from their Web initiatives. Clients include Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp, Petco, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, and Cricket Communications. Connect with him at http://twitter.com/icowboy.

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