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Sallie Bale

Communica PR


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Four principles for instilling cultures of creativity


The number of job descriptions that now list ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ amongst the list of characteristics applicants need to have seems to have skyrocketed. Really, they just want someone who can take the initiative and think outside the box.

But organisations don’t need to hire in new talent to find these qualities. Instilling a culture of creativity will go a long way to fulfilling this need for entrepreneurial talent.

Reveal your best self

We are all born with an innate desire to reach our full potential, to be our best self, as Oprah would say. Maslow defined reaching our potential as becoming ‘self-actualised’. Before reaching this state, a number of more basic needs must be met first: food, safety, love, and self-esteem. These are known as deficiency needs: something needs to be replenished in their life for these needs to be met.

Making connections between things that initially seem disparate is at the heart of creativity.

How does this relate to your employees? Leaders need to move their staff up Maslow’s Pyramid until they’re searching out growth and fulfilling their potential all by themselves. When all of our deficiencies have been filled back up, we can be creative, innovative and use our initiative. And you can’t ask for much more than that.

Whilst financial reward is very much part of it – not many people are prepared to work for free – it’s not the whole story. Employers need to provide the basics in order for their employees to get to that state. Some companies provide lunch or snacks for their employees (food), or healthcare and life insurance packages (safety). But the more challenging needs to meet at work are love and self-esteem.

This means regular reviews and feedback. Constructive criticism. Taking an interest in employees’ lives. Giving them a “because” to believe in – why are we working so hard on this particular issue? It means creating an inclusive working environment, free from discrimination and harassment.

Putting innovation in the air

A working environment where employees have the ability to reach their full potential is just the first step. Organisations need to have innovation in the air. Leaders must first apply the four principles of building a creative culture to themselves, and then teach their managers to do the same. They are:

  1. Be more inclusive.
  2. Learn how to brainstorm.
  3. Never stop learning.
  4. Take breaks!

The last of which most C-Suite-ers I know will struggle with.

Every single one of us is different. Being more inclusive is just about being aware of the differences that we all have. Quiet Betty might have grown up in a house where you don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. Whereas, Arrogant Andy might be the youngest of five boys, and spent his childhood shouting for attention and approval.

Whilst there is an art to a real brainstorm, and it can take some practice, I encourage all my clients to follow these three simple rules:

  1. Have a clear problem you are trying to solve.
  2. No one’s contribution is a bad contribution.
  3. Record the session, so you don’t have to stop the flow.

Making connections between things that initially seem disparate is at the heart of creativity. Encouraging employees to read, take up a new hobby, learn a new language or have a side project at work can help expand their pool of knowledge.

Being more inclusive is just about being aware of the differences that we all have. 

And finally, a tired brain is a stalled brain. Having a break can mean taking that well deserved holiday. Or it could mean booking a half-day holiday on a Wednesday, because you feel like it. Or it could mean having your full lunch break. Outside the office.

Encourage everyday “aha” moments

Most business leaders have probably asked someone in an interview for examples of when they improved upon a process. All businesses want their staff to take initiative, but how many give them the opportunity to do so?

Being creative is a skill, and like all skills, needs to be practiced every day. One very practical way to embolden people to be creative is to ask them to use their initiative. To find ways the business can be improved, costs reduced, resources used more efficiently.

Not only do lean principles show that many little improvements make a big difference, but that taking on board people’s changes makes them feel valued. And work harder and feel more loyal.

Working the ‘creative muscle’ regularly means that when employees come to brainstorm a new product, marketing campaign or service offering, they’ll already be warmed up to it.

From boardroom to broom cupboard

There is no one in your company who can’t be creative – and no one who can’t be more creative. Instilling a culture of creativity into any business takes commitment and hard work. But the rewards are exponential. You’ll be able to magnify customer value, whilst diminishing inefficiencies.

Leaders need to look at how they can fulfil the basic needs of their staff, and they will be rewarded with a better quality of work, a more loyal workforce and happier place to work.

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Sallie Bale


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