Three Ways Companies Can Foster Creativity to Improve Innovation

How the right technology, freedom to explore and inclusive culture can impact the bottom line

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Fears persist that the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace the need for human skills and take jobs away. Fear not. In fact, imagination, ingenuity and inventiveness – all things that are innately human – are increasingly essential for companies and their employees in this age of disruption.

One of the reasons I feel optimistic about the positive impact AI will have on creativity is based on a new research study finding: creative professionals believe AI will free them to be more creative. In fact, 74 percent of creative professionals spend over 50 percent of their time on repetitive, non-creative tasks, according to The Pfeiffer Report. They see AI as giving them the time to do what they’re inherently good at and valued for: their creative thinking.

Therefore, the dawn of the AI era will allow us to be more creative than ever. This can happen in three ways:

No. 1: Technology helps create the platforms and mediums that let employees from all walks of life share their voice and story

While creativity is a vital ingredient for innovation, it requires the right tools to facilitate expression and collaboration. One rising trend in workplace technology is BYOD – Bring your Own Device. More than half of North American and European companies are developing BYOD programs in response to workforce demand, according to Forrester. BYOD isn’t just simply permitting employees to use their personal laptop or cell phone for work; it also requires designing workplace technology systems to mirror the way employees use technology outside of work to enable greater access to workplace systems when not in the office.

Technology can also eliminate traditional barriers for creative expression and recognition. For creators, social media has become an important platform to share, collaborate and gain inspiration for their craft. While previous generations had to persuade gatekeepers at galleries to showcase their work, today’s artists and creators can easily share their craft directly on social channels to build audiences.

Companies can learn from this by developing communication systems that mirror the two-way conversation on social media to allow all employees to share feedback and ideas, enabling the best ideas to surface.

No. 2: Company culture can propel creativity

There is no substitute for fostering an environment where employees can share their ideas and creative thoughts, even beyond their core job responsibilities.

I am fortunate enough to work at a place that continues to live out its founding principles, including “great ideas come from anywhere.” Our Sneaks program is a wonderful example of this. Each year at our marquee conferences – Adobe MAX and Adobe Summit – employees from across the organization are encouraged to submit new ideas that solve a customer challenge. It’s an important initiative that allows employees across levels and departments to step away from their day-to-day responsibilities and stretch new creative muscles in a way that drives new thinking for our customers.

I am also inspired by Amazon for its Expressions program and Lab centered on employee creativity, enabling employees to express themselves in various ways. The Lab, dedicated to classes and projects, is filled with workshop tables, paint canvases, computers and 3-D printers. Amazon regularly hosts artists in the space to work and has begun an artist-in-residence program.

No. 3: Leadership that models diversity and is deliberate about inclusion.

As a person of Indian origin without a tech background, I never imagined being a senior executive at a world-renowned company. When I was promoted to my current role I recall scores of young Asian women rallying around me and wanting to hear about my journey. While I have never considered my journey special, I’m heartened to know that my sharing has motivated others to aspire to executive level opportunities.

Every leader can be more deliberate about inclusion. Seemingly small events, such as a lunch with the leadership team, can help everyone on the team feel more comfortable interacting and sharing ideas. Deloitte’s ‘Diversity and Inclusion: The Reality Gap’ report determined that diverse and inclusive teams “are more innovative, engaged, and creative in their work.This study, which compared high-performing teams against lower-performing teams, supports the view that people must feel included to speak up and fully contribute.

Today, it’s increasingly clear the jobs of tomorrow will demand creative problem-solving skills to redefine challenges and apply fresh solutions. In many ways, creativity is the new innovation in the business lexicon. The companies that understand and embrace the critical importance of creativity by instituting programs and initiatives to foster it will have a definitive edge.   

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