by Edward Henkler on July 30, 2013

I’ve talked previously about the importance of a cognitively diverse team in driving creativity and innovation.  I recently read an article by Dan Goleman (well known as the author of “Emotional Intelligence”) that recounted an interview with Harvard’s Teresa Amabile.  Goleman asked her how managers could support creativity in their organizations and she identified three relevant actions.

 Dan Goleman

First, your employees must have autonomy.  They should be accountable for clear goals and understand how their actions contribute to the success of the overall organization.  Following the best practices of 3M and Google, they should also have a portion of their day carved out to pursue work that is important to them, while still aligned with their overall goals.  This autonomy and sense of control spawns creativity.

The other two actions overturn the belief that scarcity or pressure improves performance.  Give your employees sufficient resources to accomplish their goals.  Resource constraints may increase their creativity in finding resources, but it distracts them from their primary mission.  Timelines are the other area where less is not more.  Putting people under tight timelines, especially when they aren’t required, can have negative long term consequences.  Instead, ensure your employees have sufficient time to ideate and reach out to other individuals for different perspectives.

Amabile’s advice is focused on creativity yet I think it has a place in the broader workplace.  I cannot imagine a downside to providing people with sufficient autonomy, resources, and time.  The burning platform has a place in motivating employees but long term stability might be better served by establishing trust and providing your employees with an environment which allows them to do their best.

How do you encourage creativity in your workforce?

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