Maximizing Creativity During Covid-19: A Guide for Business Leaders

During Covid-19, it feels like creativity is the last thing on our minds. Most companies are focused on simply getting by, making the best out of a bad situation, and mitigating the worst of the crisis. Yet, it is during times of crisis that creativity is most urgently needed to propel the company forward. In these dire times, with most employees working from home, what are the key elements in fostering a workplace environment that nurtures creativity?

A Culture of Involvement

A key aspect of a creative environment is involvement. Your employees must feel involved and that they continue to have a stake in the company’s prosperity even while at home. This will encourage their brain juices to be fully focused on the company’s needs and potential solutions.

The first step to involvement is regular team check-ins, particularly over video. Team check-ins are a vital way of remaining in touch with each other and a way of finding out what everybody else is up to. Video calls also simulate the camaraderie and face-time particular to the office setting, and is vital in sustaining team identity.

The next step is assigning employees with more varied responsibilities. While this might seem counterproductive to boosting creativity, giving an employee a range of tasks allows them to develop a stronger stake in the company’s overall mission. The aim here is to ensure that the employee does not feel like a cog in the machine: rather you want to give them a sense of ownership and direction.

Finally, introduce social channels. Tap on avenues like Slack and other digital social support systems so that employees continue to bond even while separated by screens. Activities that can strengthen social cohesion are an important step for making employees develop a sense of affinity towards the company and team mission.

An ethos of Inclusion

Beyond involving employees, leaders need to practice an ethos of inclusion if they wish to foster creativity.

The best ideas come from the most unexpected places. Listen to everybody’s thoughts and encourage your whole team to actively ideate and come up with new directions. Actively include employees who aren’t in creative roles! It may surprise you which hidden talent in your team might have the best ideas at the right moment.

A good meeting facilitator is an active one. Rather than letting the discussion proceed willy-nilly, pay attention to who speaks out more and who is silent. Oftentimes, silent players are actually bubbling with creative juices. An active facilitator will balance the group and encourage the more dominant personalities to take a backseat and draw out the shyer team players.

In fact, the endgame here is to encourage a spirit of play. A spirit of play is a business culture that encourages employees to offer unconventional, or even silly, ideas. This can only happen under the guidance of a leader who fosters trust in her team. A team defined by rock-solid bonds of trust will encourage people to venture their thoughts and creative bursts without fear of repercussion or social backlash.

When employees feel included and are empowered to speak up, be careful to moderate the discussion actively. To generate great ideas, you need a team that is willing to disagree and push back and forth on what works best for the company. At the same time, a good leader will balance this pendulum delicately and with precision. A culture of healthy disagreement should not topple over into one of ego-driven clashes. The freedom to disagree and speak one’s mind should empower creative energies, rather than devolve into a spirit of conflict and egos.

A Practice of Recognition

Finally, ensure that practices of recognition and appreciation are built into the team’s processes.

When we are separated, it is all the more harder to honor each other’s work and validate the efforts people put in. A strong leader understands the importance of appreciating employees and making them feel valued on an individual level.

For instance, sending benefits tailored to individual employee’s needs and requests – such as a standing desk – can go a long way towards improving their work from home arrangements and reflect a supportive attitude within higher leadership.

Planning for birthdays and special occasions is another way to demonstrate a caring attitude.

Remembering what is important to your staff and commemorating that is a key way towards building a collective culture of appreciation and care. A community that cares about each other is more likely to be actively supportive of each other, creating an environment that nurtures creativity.

By building a Culture of Involvement, an Ethos of Inclusion, and a Practice of Recognition, business leaders can create workplace environments that cultivate creative thinking and problem solving even when employees are working for home. Remember: a team is only as strong as its management.

 

Helena Ma brings with her a wealth of experience and a truly cosmopolitan perspective, having lived and worked in Shanghai, China; Gothenburg, Sweden; and London, UK. Her stints in Europe and China has armed Helena with a potent blend of ancient Chinese wisdom and contemporary Western knowledge which she incorporates into business management and client project