Innovation and creativity at work can sometimes be difficult to come by. Often we need to source inspiration from elsewhere. How can we use the concept of crowdsourcing to boost creativity in the workplace?
We’ve all been there. Chained to our desk, staring at a screen. Reading and re-reading documents to figure out why it’s not quite right.
The clock relentlessly marches on. Your heart starts to race as a deadline looms. Sipping on the tenth coffee of the day, you wonder, “How on Earth will I get this finished on time?”
Whether working as part of a team or not – often our work requires us to work independently at one point or another.
It’s great when we need the quiet time to hone-in and focus. But what about the times when a spark of creativity or innovation could be the difference between an average and an exceptional outcome?
Not many of us work on traditionally creative tasks all the time. But effectively solving any kind of problem typically requires some kind of creative process.
Creative Thinking Is a Catalyst
Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, believes that creative thinking is a catalyst, and it helps us to engage in communication and analysis.
We’ve all seen evidence of this, haven’t we?
How often have you been involved with, or seen, a crowd of people in a meeting room throwing ideas onto a whiteboard?
Everyone involved is collaboratively working towards solving a particular problem and bouncing ideas around energetically to produce incredible results.
Unfortunately, we can’t each hold a boardroom meeting on a daily basis. However, we can take the collaborative crowdsourcing idea into our daily routine.
How? Well, let’s look at the different ways we can boost our creativity and innovation at work.
Crowdsource without Involving the Crowd
We don’t need a crowd of people in one place to be able to crowdsource.
In fact, we don’t always need to source creativity from people at all.
Office workspaces at some of the world’s biggest tech companies have received a lot of attention in the last few years. Not without reason.
Although there is a scientific reason behind this collaborative workspace model, we’re not all lucky enough to be able to play ping pong together with coworkers, take refuge in an office tent, or work inside a spaceship.
The reason these spaces have an effect on creativity is because creativity has been shown to stem from several parts of the brain, and different people have different creative sparks.
Tapping into several of these creative types would allow innovation to pour from our fingertips.
The ‘crowd’ from which we source is everyone and everything around us at work.
But, even without working in workspaces such as those mentioned, there is plenty of opportunity available to us right now.
You just need to know where to look.
Source Creativity from Your Desk
A good way to keep the old creativity cogs going throughout the day is to make your desk space feel as close to your own as possible.
While a barebones desk might be good for productivity, a desk covered in your items might foster more creative juices from you.
Depending on your workspace setup, you may not have tons of options.
Open-space offices, for example, can be more difficult to personalize. But there are also ways to be more effective in this environment.
If management is OK with you personalizing your space, you might want to add a touch of organized mess to your desk to spark creativity.
For some, that might mean family photos. For others, it might be photos of our favorite band, guitar, or even a pet.
As an alternative, if a clean desk policy prohibits cluttered desks, think about using temporary mess as your source of inspiration.
A handy collection of images, notebooks, and ornaments kept neatly tidied away most of the time, to be called upon when you feel in need of creative help.
Source Creativity from Furniture
I write my best articles while perched on a bar stool and tapping away on a laptop sitting on a solid wood table.
Not sure why, but there is something in the feeling of the wood. Its texture, warmth, and stability just helps me zone in.
Don’t get me wrong – my regular desk is also a place where I can get work done, but whenever I’m in a creative rut, I take myself over to the coffee area in our office.
Whether you work in an office, at home, or anywhere else – there will be options available to you as to where you can work from.
Unused and unloved bean bags in the corner of the canteen? Try sitting there with a notepad and pen in hand for a spot of problem solving.
Have a sofa and coffee table that’s mainly used during break times? Why not take a seat with your laptop for a short while to finish the last read-through of a project?
The point is, innovation and creativity at work can be quickly sourced by a short trip over to a different furniture set-up within the building.
Source Creativity from Nature
Lucky enough to have a workspace with a garden or some kind of outdoor space? Make use of it.
Whether it’s the wind rustling through trees, or listening to birdsong for five minutes, or feeling freshly cut grass underfoot – there is something to be said for the impact of nature on our creative flow.
Even better if you have the option to sit at a table with your laptop for a whole afternoon’s worth of work.
But what if you don’t have an office garden? Take a walk during lunch.
On days when I need to boost my creative output, no matter how busy my schedule, I make time for a 30 minute lunchtime stroll.
The background noise from the streets and the shifting sunlight among the branches of trees clears my mental RAM.
Some of my biggest web coding HTML and CSS breakthroughs have occurred mid-stroll.
I can then get back to creative tasks with newfound energy and focus.
Source Creativity from Coworkers
Wait, didn’t we say that it’s not a good idea to plan for daily meetings as a form of crowdsourcing creativity?
Absolutely. But that doesn’t stop us from crowdsourcing from individual coworkers.
I often ask coworkers for five minutes to bounce an idea around over a coffee. It’s incredible how efficient this can be.
Alternatively, I’ll shoot them a short chat message, which is perfect as it can reach coworkers anywhere in the world on nearly any device they may have.
Problems I could struggle with alone for hours can be solved immediately by tapping into the fresh viewpoint of a coworker.
Why Being Creative Is a Must
All the way back in 2012, the Global Benchmark Study from Adobe found that creativity is key to driving economic growth.
Creativity and innovation are requirements for our personal motivation and success, and for the prosperity of companies as well.
The benefits of greater creativity are almost endless. A handful include:
- improved teamwork and morale
- improved work satisfaction
- a greater attention to detail
- increased productivity
- improved results
We know this to be true because people such as Teresa M. Amabile, the Director of Research at Harvard Business School, have been studying the effect of creativity in the workplace for over 25 years.
Since 1993, Teresa has spoken about the componential theory of creativity and has studied how teams specifically react in more creative environments.
The ability to be more creative is a source of intrinsic motivation.
How do you crowdsource innovation and creativity in your workspace?