5 Ways to Stifle Creativity in the Workplace
At EVG, the role of creativity in the workplace has always been well established—after all, we work in an industry where “Content is king.” That said, I have friends and colleagues in other industries who face the interesting challenges of leading ultra-creative individuals in goal-driven, bottom line-focused settings that aren’t necessarily wired to support right-brainers.
The inherent challenge for them is carving out and maintaining a “creative safe place” where their teams can do their thing and still remain a cog in the business wheel. How, for example, can you expect a creative writer to work in a setting where the rules, deadlines, and feedback loops are rapid fire and the orders continually pour in?
That in mind, I batted the concept around with some colleagues and realized there are tons of things you should do, but it might be better to focus on things you shouldn’t:
Don’t Have a Plan
What? Don’t creative types function better without boundaries?
Sure. But let’s hippify what this means: Get rid of the boundaries in your head, man, but embrace the ones in your workspace. Being free to create isn’t the same as working without a plan.
The best artists and musicians do have plans, so hang up your hang ups.
Don’t Share the Plan
Two in, and I’m already sensing a theme. Creative folks want—and need—to operate in settings where they know (1) their work is valued, (2) their time is appreciated and (3) exactly what they are expected to do.
Now, I’m not endorsing Puritanical enforcement of the rules—only a small percentage respond well to that—but what I am saying is this: If your team of creative writers is supposed to craft 500-word articles on XX with 5 specific attributes, then they should know (and deliver) exactly that.
For a creative person, the only thing worse than an office-wide ban on music streams is an environment where he/she can’t gauge how things are going because the expectations are either unclear or unenforced.
Keep Standards Low
Most people like to know they’re valued, and value is predicated on some type of standard. Don’t assume, because you’ve got a team full of creative people, that you negatively impact them with buzzwords like deliverable deadline, creep, and metrics. Instead, present these as fun challenges they’ll have to overcome creatively.
As Kevin Daum notes in his recent inc.com article, smart leaders allow their employees to be stakeholders in the health of the business, thereby raising the bar for everybody.
Cubicle Them ‘til Closing Time
Not a country song, but close. Let your creative employees interact with one another and the team at large. Some of the best brainstorming sessions I’ve been a part of involved cross-sections of folks from sales, programming, and content creation.
Each brought different perspectives on the business, resulting in collaborative plans that were strategic, profitable, and easy on the eye. EVG CEO Brice Bay says as much in an interview with writtent.com, pointing out that great sources of inspiration are often right in front of us in the workplace.
Ride and Replace
In “Hey Hey, My My,” Neil Young tells us, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” In my estimation, getting better as you go is the best bet.
The same rule applies in the workplace.If you’ve got talented, creative people on your team, encourage them to expand their horizons and develop skills that benefit the company in ways beyond their present engagements. This gives the team a chance to become invested in what the company is doing, and by virtue of the investment, actually become THE company.
As for the ride and replace mentality, it’s nothing more than a turnover recipe that sends your talent elsewhere.
Joey Hall – VP Content Marketing