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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

9 tips that cultivate team (and individual) creativity

If you’re going through a rough patch generating new ideas for your next big launch, consider these tried and true methods.

9 tips that cultivate team (and individual) creativity
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

It’s no secret that coming up with an innovative solution to surpass the success of your last product or service rollout is never an easy feat, especially when there is always a chance of it flopping in the marketplace if current and prospective customers don’t catch on quick enough.

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In order to boost creativity in your leadership team and with employees across the entire company, CEOs and managers need to think outside the box to encourage their employees to share their ideas freely in an open work environment free of judgment where they feel safe and supported. And once you lift any mental constraints from their brainstorming process, an endless pipeline of propositions is likely to flow.

Nine experts from Fast Company Executive Board weigh in on their approach to gathering employee-proposed projects with the most potential.

1. HAVE A BRAINSTORMING SESSION.

One great tool for cultivating creativity is brainstorming sessions that involve each team member coming up with creative ideas offline. This way all perspectives and ideas are heard. By creating similar opportunities for all members, leaders can benefit by revealing the true potential of their employees while they spark out-of-the-box ideas. – Irfan Khan, CLOUDSUFI

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2. CELEBRATE SUCCESS AND FAILURE.

I have found two things—which if done in tandem—significantly boost creativity. First, create an innovation fund to actively solicit creative ideas. Second, adopt a “fail fast” culture that celebrates success and failure. Doing both of these together emboldens employees from all departments to bring forth their best creativity. – Erin Lanuti, Omnicom Public Relations Group

3. DO SOMETHING YOU DON’T USUALLY DO.

If you work together in person, take a walk outside together. If you’re virtual, do a game of Zoom charades or have a trivia contest. Get your team thinking in new ways and you’ll be surprised how easily you can apply their fresh energy to their work. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

4. REMOVE MENTAL CONSTRAINTS.

Have everyone contribute ideas, regardless of their level, by having them write down ideas before sharing. Writing independently ensures they won’t be swayed by others. Then think about what will increase your results by 10 times the amount or improve them by 10 percent. Removing mental constraints is where creative ideas are born, so give your staff the thinking time. Creativity dies when you’re running on a hamster wheel. – Sara Wasserteil, Cara Collective

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5. ENCOURAGE NEW POSSIBILITIES.

Spark creativity by sparking curiosity about new possibilities. Fear of failure or judgment may stop certain individuals from taking risks when it comes to pursuing new creative ideas. Creativity, therefore, needs to be ingrained in the DNA of the culture by educating teams on how to brainstorm effectively, how to select the best ideas, and how to move from the prototype phase to the launch phase. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

6. MAKE TEAM MEMBERS FEEL SEEN AND HEARD.

Create innovative projects on a regular basis and fold them into the normal workflow. Empowering your employees and leadership team to take on new challenges, and making them fun is a way to keep creativity alive. When it is alive, reinforce it! Let your team know the value of their ideas to make them feel seen and heard. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. DO SOME DOODLING.

I recommend exploring doodling as a team activity. Read Sunni Brown’s book The Doodle Revolution. From it, you’ll learn that scribbling or doodling is a creative act. You can work with your team to turn abstract concepts into clear drawings. You’ll find answers to hard problems more easily and you’ll help your team bond in a fun way too. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

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8. CREATE A POSITIVE AND OPEN WORK ENVIRONMENT.

Create a positive and open work environment that fosters collaboration among different departments. Encouraging employees to work together, regardless of the department in which they work or their title, allows them to bring innovative new ideas to the table. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

9. SUPPORT YOUR EMPLOYEES’ SIDE HUSTLES.

Often, team members have side hustles and my friend Maresa Friedman suggested something that’s been really effective: I purchase online courses for them in topics they can use both for our work and in their side hustle, then have them present what they’ve learned to the rest of the team. Showing the team you support them in all of their passions makes them more creative and helps us all learn. – Anna David, Legacy Launch Pad

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