Being creative at work is one of the best things you can do to make an impact in your company and boost your career at the same time.
Unfortunately, too many people become complacent at work and after a while, their creativity stagnates. Especially for those who have been with a company for many years, routine and entranched habits get into the way of thinking outside the box. This is the enemy of progress. This is when people become average.
For this reason, I want to give you some ideas that you can implement in your professional life, no matter of the workplace. This will help you to slowly improve your creative thinking abilities which will benefit you in many more areas, not just at work.
I used these methods in my professional life when I used to work for frog design in munich. Working for a creative company was a good breeding ground for experimentation and I hope these ideas will inspire you to implement some of the ideas in your own work environment.
We will start with some basic things and move on to more unconventional ways to be creative at work later. Use this as a starting point for your own ideas. Every company is different and what works in one company, may not work in another. But at the end of the day, a company is made of people. And people have the innate desire to have fun. So don’t be afraid to try out different things.
How Creativity At Work Can Boost Your Career
Especially if you are working in a traditional industry it can be hard to grasp the value of creativity if no one cares.
But particularly those industries benefit the most from creative people. You may have much higher chances of making an impact there compared to in a company that is highly creative with everyone competing against each other.
From my own experience, I can tell you that working in a creative environment and being surrounded by people who constantly come up with new ideas and where everyone has an opinion, makes it much more hard to make an idea stick. So don’t get discouraged if your company is not very creatively driven, but use it to your advantage!
How to become indispensable
Creativity is the most important skill to master and the greatest gift of the mind. There are very few people who use their full creative potential on a daily basis. But in the 21st century it is even more important to embrace creative problem solving and visual thinking skills than ever before.
Everyone wants to get the next promotion, but no one is willing to embrace new ways of thinking. People expect to get paid higher wages every year for the same amount of work. If you can build a brand for yourself and become known as the most creative person in your department, you don’t need to ask for a raise. The energy and effort you put out there, will eventually pay off and come back big time and here is why:
Put yourself into the shoes of a CEO
You are running a company and have 10 employees. 9 people just do the minimum work that is in their job description. But there is one person who goes the extra mile, constantly comes up with new ideas to improve the culture and pushes the company forward. Who is more likely to get a raise?
Being creative at work has many benefits that may not be visible at first, but will have a snowball effect in the long run. Have a positive mindset and do the best you can, even if you don’t see immediate benefits. Every cause will have an effect. It is the law of the universe.
Without further ado, let’s jump straight into the ideas of how to be creative at work:
Redesign Your Workspace
The first step to become more creative at work is to start with your own workspace. It is incredible how much of an impact our environment has on our creativity, and if we want to think more innovative, we need to put the right cues in place.
In practical terms, this means that you need to get your table organized and inject elements that sparks creativity. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Spread bright and fun colors
Color psychology have tremendous impact on your mood. To spark creative thinking, have different elements with bright and fun colors in your peripheral vision. Orange and Purple can impact creatively positively, while Red and Yellow can trigger emotions to danger or warnings. However, the perception of colors cannot be generalized. You have to know what makes YOU feel good. It is your workplace.
2. Have Post-It’s or a Sketchbook in reaching distance
Visualizing ideas is important for creativity. By having paper handy, you can put your thoughts quickly into a tangible format. Post-It’s are great because they are already colorful and the size is perfect for quick ideas. However, Post-It’s can become messy quicky and this is where notebooks come into play to keep your ideas organized in one place.
3. Make it playful
In my childhood, I was a big fan of Bruce Lee. To make my workspace more fun, I had a little Bruce Lee figure on my table. Having little items on your desk, can also be a great conversation starter with colleagues. If you don’t like to have little toys on your table, you can also consider plants. Plants are a great for to comfort your mind.
4. Boost your thinking with fidget toys
There is a reason why fidget spinners where such a phenomenon for a while. Little toys can help with your creative thinking. They put your mind into motion. Little fidget spinner or balls that you can squeeze are great.
All of the things mentioned above added together are a great way to train your subconscious mind to enter creativity mode when you get to the office. While you may not notice a different at first, your subconscious mind will still pick up the cues.
Optimize Your Workflow
This goes a little bit into the techie direction, but workflow automation can be a fun way to eliminate tedious tasks to free up your time at work. There are many stories of people who used simple tools and scripting to automate their work completely and spend most of the day at the water-cooler or surfing facebook. I’m not encouraging anyone to do that, but the point is that working smart is much better than working hard.
Think about the little things you often do repetitively at work. Is there a way to automate these processes to free up your time?
Visualizing Ideas In Meetings
Sketch noting is one of the most powerful tools to put boring meeting information into a more tangible and memorable format. If you are not used to sketching, then this idea may seem daunting at first, but I have a neat article that will help you to get over the fear of sketching and doodling. It will give you simple techniques to visualize your ideas quickly .
Give A Coffee Time Presentation
A great opportunity to establish your personal brand is during coffee time. Coffee time is something that everyone is looking forward to and where most people are in a relaxed and receptive state.
You can use this opportunity to share ideas and knowledge in a small presentation.
Does it sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be!
You can create a template once and reuse it for future share-outs. This way you can establish your little coffee presentation as something people look forward to, if done consistently! While keynotes are nice, you can also do everything low key using printouts or photos on your phone.
Your share-outs also don’t have to take much of peoples time. 5-10 minutes at the start is totally fine. After that, you can have a brief 5 minute discussion.
The amount of topics can be infinite, but here are some ideas to start with:
- leadership skills
- Current trends in tech & design
- personal development hacks
- small life hacks
- how to videos
- discuss articles you’ve read (maybe related to your project)
Try to avoid controversial topics like politics that can lead to bigger discussion and eventually even hurt people. Focus on topics that adds benefits to everyone’s life.
I know, not every company has a dedicated coffee time where everyone is coming together. You need to see for yourself when it’s the best time to get peoples attention.
Send Out “How to…” – Emails
This was one of my favorite creativity hacks. Because I love reading personal development books and life-hacks, I wanted to share my knowledge with my colleagues. I created a series of short emails that I sent out to the office in the morning.
I labeled the email with: “How to …” and sent them out between 8:00 – 9:00 AM when everyone commuted to work. I found that sending them out early in the morning had a higher open rate , since people catch up with email quite early and usually don’t have time during the day.
The email doesn’t have to be complex. For instance, once I shared some learnings from Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people” on how to give feedback without hurting people. It was a simple email with an example.
Title: How not to suck at …
.. giving feedback. Use AND instead of BUT.
“We’re really proud of you, Johnnie, for raising your grades this term. But if you had worked harder on your algebra, the results would have been better.”
“We’re really proud of you, Johnnie, for raising your grades this term, and by continuing the same conscientious efforts next term, your algebra grade can be up with all the others.”
Push The Culture Beyond The Office
Many times I see people keeping work life and personal life very separate. They just go to work for the sake of the salary and don’t see the necessity to get to know others. I found this a very sad outlook on life. If you spend the majority of your life working with others, you might as well try to establish a personal connection.
People don’t want to share too much their lives because they are afraid to become vulnerable. Yet, we are all human and showing a little personality is the best way to create deep connections.
I found that organizing events outside work is the best thing to get peoples guard down. If people get to know each other better, it indirectly creates a better culture. The experiences you collect outside work can lead to much more fun atmosphere at work. Here are things I loved to organize:
Dinners & Drinks
I love dinners, because food connects our soul. Many times, I would invite my design friends from work and mixed it up with designers from other companies. I love connecting people and it fills me with joy to see others connect on a personal level. And you never know, maybe there is a better job opportunity coming out of this.
Another favorite activity of mine was to organize weekly trips to the nearby mountains. People connect the best when they go through an activity together. Long walks are awesome for conversations. I would take photos to share during a coffee time presentation. People who didn’t attend would get curious and asked to join next time. This is a great way to build a culture.
Don’t ask for Permission, just do it!
This almost sounds like the Nike slogan, but the last advice I would like to share is to take risks and try out things. Don’t be afraid to start something new and unconventional.
Many people are afraid of being judged, but this is what holds them back from making massive change in their lives. You can’t wait for people to give you permission to do something different.
You need to take extreme ownership .
It is better to do things first and see what happens. You may have heard this before, but it is always easier to ask for forgiveness than asking for permission.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. What is your secret sauce for creativity at work? If you have valuable tips that works in your own workplace, then I would love to hear about your experience 🙂