4.10.1 Strengthening creativity-related skills of the staff by improving organisational factors

Step 1. Building on unique potentials, motivation, individual background

The optimal situation would be to select people for any jobs with the most prosperous potentials and background, with high level of inner motivation (who wants to do tasks because of the task itself, not for the money or reward they got after. It is called inner motivation because the reward and goal is inside the activity). It is important, when we are about to hire someone to see if we will be able to accept the person for who he or she is.
We can help them exploit their potentials, but if we want them to be creative, we should not try to change them. Think outside the box:
“Each individual has a wealth of subjective experiences and knowledge in his or her box. From that individual box, the worldview is unique, problems and opportunities are seen through a particular lense.  Put enough different individual lenses together and you have a kaleidoscope of ideas.”

If you are a family-owned small or microenterprise and you cannot select the people to hire or discharge, try to discover what their potential lies in. We all have strong sides, this makes us unique. If you can provide them space besides the daily routines empowering them to do what they are good at or motivated in, they will multiply the resources and the innovativeness of your company soon. Ask them questions on what they are motivated to do (see some examples in Step 3)

Keep in mind, the more diverse the background of your staff is, the more ways of thinking emerge among them, so the better creativity sparks within the group or organization. Supervise and consult them, but do not make them think alike each other or as you do.

Step 2. Strengthening self-esteem
by supportive relationships, encouraging reward system and providing them space

A stable self-confidence is a base of creativity as people with a healthy self-confidence are less motivated to use self-defending mechanisms. They feel safe enough to talk about their own ideas. They are free in mind, so they can get over the boundaries of the self and of the existing rules and habits better. This way, self-confident individuals can think of novel solutions easier.

Supportive relationships are an important base of our self-esteem and what we think about ourselves. They are a kind of mirror, in which we see ourselves – it forms the way we feel and think about ourselves most of the time. Believe it or not, the way you are thinking about yourself changes your behaviour and achievements. If relationships are accepting and supporting around you, you will feel at ease expressing yourself – let it be any unusual idea.

Please stop and think:
Maybe the time has come to revise the organisational culture a little-bit: Write a list of points together with your colleagues as a codex describing how it would be effective to build an even better, supportive atmosphere:

  • Is it important in your company to get to know each other and talk in coffee-breaks, at lunch or making an out-of-office dinner /social program?
  • Do managers point out how to develop products better rather than criticizing what is not done well?
  • Do people feel they have someone to talk to in case they have a problem?
  • Is it    supported to cooperate and help each other and resolve conflicts between each other?

Evaluation and reward systems also influence creativity. How the managers and the colleagues evaluate an individual usually influences the evaluation the person gives themselves. How can a good evaluation be? Detailed, self-tailored and concentrating on the development possibilities and strengths rather than criticising the weaknesses! Usually the individuals do not get detailed feedback. But the main objective of an encouraging reward system is not a judgement on the work of someone, but to motivate people to evaluate themselves better according to more factors – and to be able to do it as well alone! If we form an evaluation together with our supervisor based on individual aspects, we will have a much more stable self-esteem than if we were waiting for a feedback from outside, being exposed to the opinion of one single person. What do we call an encouraging reward-system then? 

Ask the person to shortly describe the goal of the task he or she is working on and try to see if there are any results showing how much the goal is fulfilled. Discuss it with the person responsible for it! Always take into consideration the state of the person as well when you are speaking about advices on future development possibilities. You will achieve a much greater effect if you show that you understand the individual as well. As a reward, give opportunities to exceed the current achievement-level! Understanding together with opportunities encourages people best!

It is good to remember that a personalized feedback which concentrates on the individual’s goal, achievement, range of development accompanied by suitable opportunities of future tasks to exploit is a reward in itself! Most effective reward systems are based on this structure while they also give freedom for the person to evaluate their own activities (e.g. on a formal/informal meeting with the supervisor)

By delegating the tasks and letting the staff find ways to deal with them or even by letting employees find the tasks for themselves, supervisors or managers can provide people space for self-realization. If we can manage our own activity, and we have space to do it in our own ways instead of waiting for the instruction in detail from the boss, we will be able to rely on ourselves better. This contributes to having a more stable self-esteem, and it also enhances inner motivation (we can do according to our interests and motives) and creativity (we have space for introducing innovative methods or topics).

Here are a few hints, tips to exploit:

  • Ask for or prepare work-plans that describe objectives, deadlines, and structure of tasks in a project instead of direct instructions on what to fill in or what exactly to do. This way, people can strengthen their own self-confidence and motivation.
  • Organize brainstorming sessions in teams, where the team can find out their own ways of solving or a problem or developing a potential result. This is a perfect way to give space for the employees as well.

Step 3. Supporting motivation in work

Employees who are motivated in what they do will be eager to exceed the existing knowledge-base with novel associations or solutions - more than others. Generally, if someone is doing a job because it is a must, they will only go for producing something that is a little less than good, just to be acceptable enough to pass. For innovative ideas, we have to dig deep within a topic, take it apart, observe the particles, look for unknown pieces of the puzzle or technologies that would fit better to put the parts back in a developed way. This requires a lot of energy! Motivation is the cheapest and most effective source of energy that drives one to be absorbed in a topic or activity. This way, the activity becomes the goal itself. This is why we should find and support the motivations of employees – it worth like a price of gold. How? Let people choose some of the tasks for themselves. Motivate them to answer:

Consider the connection of the following values to work. Which one are the most important to you? Which are the least important? Make them in order accordingly!
   Advancement
   Creativity
   Expertise
   Flexibility
   Helping people
   High salary
   Independence
   Job security
   Joy
   Leadership
   Location
   Prestige
   Responsibility
   Self-actualization
   Social connections
   Variety
   Work-family balance
   Young atmosphere
   ……………...................(Joker: any other)

Now look at your order – are the rewards and circumstances more important to you or you consider the task itself to be the most important?

Here are some questions for you which can orientate your attention (or help encouraging your colleagues):

  • What activities do you enjoy doing just for the sake of doing them? (without receiving any reward)
  • What kind of information do you collect, what kind of books/ magazines / films do you like?
  • What part of the house / flat is that you like the most and why?
  • What were your favourite courses or subjects of which you even enjoyed doing a homework or writing an exam-paper?
  • Can you imagine any job that you would even do for free if you had enough money not to work anymore?
  • What would you like to achieve through your ideal job(s) in the next few (3-5) years?
  • Who were your childhood heroes or favourite characters? Do you know why you looked upon them?
  • What did you want to become as a grown up?
  • List some of your achievements! Describe the situation, your task, what kind of skills you needed. What did you achieve and what were the results?

Are your answers different from the priorities you marked in the previous exercise? If you feel so, go back, and rethink your answers in the previous task.

Step 4. Trigger flow-experience and the feeling of being efficient

Creative individuals differ from one another in a variety of ways, but in one respect they are similar: “They enjoy what they do. They are completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz1. If your whole being is involved, and you are using your skills to the utmost, you experience flow and self-efficacy when reaching to a success. Nevertheless, positive psychologists say it is an important component of creativity, but happiness as well.

”The flow experience emerges in the following conditions:

  • There are clear goals every step of the way
  • There is immediate feedback to one’s actions
  • There is a balance between challenges and skills
  • Action and awareness are merged
  • Distractions are excluded from consciousness
  • There is no worry of failure
  • Self-consciousness disappears
  • The sense of time becomes distorted
  • The activity becomes autotelic2.”

The key, according to Csikszentmihalyi, is to challenge ourselves with tasks requiring optimally high competence-level, which, on the other hand, are not over-demanding. This is why we needed stable self-esteem and inner motivation to find the activities suitable for our skills and competences. If we know what we are mostly interested in, we can find tasks that we enjoy and are just optimal for our skills.

Here are a few hints, tips to exploit:

  • Before starting to solve a seemingly interesting task, make the objectives clear. Is there any personal objective you can think about connected to this task?
  • Balance your demands and abilities. If you feel that the task is too demanding, try to look for other resources or help to complete your own skills. Remember, it is important that you would not have a fear of failure. Is there anyone motivated whom you could involve? If not a colleague, usually university-students are pleased to take part in any kind of real-life experience. Maybe you already know some talented ones. Or you can think about a professor to invite...?
  • If you like to work late, give yourself time to do that. Make time-management flexible for you and for your employees as well. It is an opportunity to go forward in the pace and according to the skills of the person.
  • Instead of watching television, play the piano” – or learn something new, visit fairs or go out and play a ball-game with your children. Find an activity you enjoy just for the sake of the activity itself. Transform a routine task by taking a different approach. In short, learn the joy of complete engagement. Though they appear simple, the lessons in finding flow are life-altering.

1 Csíkszentmihályi: Flow the optimal experience
2 Csíkszentmihályi: Flow – see glossary