Elizabeth Gilbert’s most famous work–Eat, Pray, Love–reads something like a fantasy trip: Time for self-reflection; and of course, pizza. But in her newest book, Big Magic, Gilbert explores a topic more widespread (and closer to home): The idea of creativity.
Before you dismiss the topic as just another flight of fancy, consider some of the things you use or interact with every day that are the direct result of a creative mind. From the songs you listen to on Spotify to the Pop-Tart you ate on the way to work and pinging your coworker on Slack, all of these things were once just a “what if?” in someone’s mind.
According to Gilbert, inspiring creativity may be less of an exercise in brainstorming, and more of a show of trust and courage. And, if you want your employees to be more creative in their approach and problem-solving skills, a few of Big Magic’s main points might be the ideal place to start.
Gilbert writes that one of the biggest roadblocks to creativity is fear. Whether it’s the fear or failure or the fear of rejection, your employees don’t speak up because they’re scared that their ideas won’t pass the test. As a leader, it’s up to you to communicate to employees that creative ideas are welcome and encouraged. A way to do this effectively is by clearly communicating in your company’s on-boarding training that ideas are encouraged, and failure is not shunned, but instead viewed as a learning tool.
It can be hard to let your employees make mistakes, but the same failure that stops them in their tracks can be the failure that helps them develop a stronger solution or idea. Instead of expecting perfection, good leaders inspire their employees to fail quickly and makes them feel safe enough to share and try their ideas.
Trust and Permission
You hired your employees, right? Why not let them do the job for which they were hired? It seems like a simple concept, but Gilbert warns against the perils of expecting perfectionism. While Gilbert expounds upon the importance of imperfection on a personal level, the same principle can be applied to leadership in the workplace, especially when it comes to the idea of trust.
Too often, management hires deft, creative employees, but then sends a clear message of mistrust when those individuals aren’t given the freedom and permission to execute in their capacity. Poor leaders are all too eager to look over shoulders and expect perfection, while the best leaders trust in their team and let them feel free and comfortable to experiment, try, fail, and be imperfect to come up with new ideas and solutions.
Gilbert urges readers to find worth in dedication, rather than success and failures. Leaders can do the same when measuring an employee’s success and creativity. Ideas can have both consciousness and a will when they’re borne from a persistent individual who believes in them enough to see them through. As a leader, it’s up to you to both recognize and reward persistence in employees who go the extra mile, read the books, increase their education, and continue working on a problem until it’s solved.
A great way for leaders to inspire persistence in their workforce is through the application of gamification. For instance, you can set up a rewards system with employee training and development modules, where every time a module is completed the employee earns a star. When an employee collects 10 stars they would receive a bonus, an extra day of paid vacation, or a ticket to an upcoming conference of their choice. It could also be as simple as simply telling an employee who is going the extra mile,”Great Job!”
Creativity can be a slippery concept, and it’s not the same for everyone. Each person has their own unique brand of creativity. For some, it manifests in creative careers, but for others, creativity might be problem-solving or better organization. By recognizing that each person is creative in their own right, you can work–as an effective leader–to draw out that creativity and max out the big magic in all of your employees.
Bad eLearning sends one clear message from your business to your employees: “We don’t care about you!” Companies who value their talent invest in them, and one of the top ways to show employees you value their time and work is by providing them with great learning to help them progress in their career. Innovation stems from employees that feel valued and care enough about the company to want to make it better.
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