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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

19 Ways to Improve Creative Thinking Skills in the Workplace

19 Ways to Improve Creative Thinking Skills in the Workplace

Our world is changing at faster pace than ever. In order to keep up, we are continually adapting to new technology and the changing industries.

Employers are looking for employees who can solve problems, think creatively and be a leader in every situation.

These 19 tips will help you find ways to improve creative thinking skills. You can also use these skills to gain credibility as a leader in the workplace:

1. Set limitations

In order to increase your own creative thinking, it helps to set limits for yourself, so you have to think outside the box to come up with solutions.

Set deadlines, budgets or any other type of limitation to increase your creative problem solving. This will build your credibility as a creative problem solver as you come up with innovative solutions.

2. Change things up

If you find yourself falling into a rut and doing the same thing every single day, then you will likely struggle to come up with new ideas. This is why it is important to change things up in your routine and break out of your rut.

Get your creative juices flowing by exercising at a different time, or trying something new for lunch. Move your desk to a different position or change your personal workspace.

Any of these changes will help spark your mind and get the new ideas pumping again.

3. Listen and care about others

When you show that you care about others and listen to their ideas and thoughts, they will trust you more.

“Leaders who listen are able to create trustworthy relationships that are transparent and breed loyalty. You know the leaders who have their employees’ best interests at heart because they truly listen to them.” — Glenn Llopis

Listening to your coworkers allows them to be more open with you and feel that they can take risks and be creative.

Discussing ideas with your coworkers will not only help you improve creative thinking techniques, but also set the environment for a more creative office.

4. Find good mentors/critics

If you want your creative work to improve, then you need to find a good mentor or critic who can give you positive feedback and help you to keep moving forward.

As your work improves over time because of your dedication and your mentor, people will hold you in greater respect.

Every type of creative work takes several drafts before it is ready to go. With your mentors, you can find ways to continually improve your work. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar said:[1]

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“Early on, all of our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I… choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions of our films really are. I’m not trying to be modest or self-effacing by saying this. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them go… from suck to non-suck. We are true believers in the iterative process – reworking, reworking and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its throughline or a hollow character finds its soul.”

Use your mentor’s knowledge to bring your first drafts to life.

5. Try and fail, a lot

The best way to get better at things is to keep trying and failing until you improve. This enhances your creative thinking and shows your coworkers that you don’t give up easily and are willing to improve.

The ability to take failure and turn it around is one of the best qualities of any leader.

The Harvard Business Review reported:[2]

“Darden Professor Saras Sarasvathy has shown through her research about how expert entrepreneurs make decisions, they must make lots of mistakes to discover new approaches, opportunities, or business models. She frequently references Howard Schultz who, when he started Il Giornale in Seattle, the company that Schultz used to later buy the original Starbucks brand and assets, the store had nonstop opera music playing, menus written in Italian, and no chairs. As Schultz has often said, “We had to make a lot of mistakes” before discovering a model that worked.”

6. Be consistent (no tortured artists here)

When you think of creativity, an image of a broken-hearted artist or alcoholic writer may come to mind. Many people today associate creativity with isolation, despair, alcohol and inconsistency.

Just picture Jay Gatsby.

While that is good for drama, that’s not really how creativity works. Creativity is fostered through consistent effort. Put in the work everyday and you will find your creative muscles and credibility will grow.

As a leader in your workplace, you need to show consistency in everything you do, not just your own work, but throughout the company to build your business’s credibility.

7. Be honest to yourself and others

Acting dishonestly is one of the fastest ways for you to lose your credibility. Always be honest to the people around you and to yourself.

If your coworkers feel that they can trust you, then they rely on you more and work with you better. Honesty is what builds a solid foundation for a successful workplace.[3]

During the creative process, it is important to be honest to yourself. It’s easy to get carried away with fantastic ideas but you will need to learn to be honest with yourself about what is and is not possible.

8. Collaborate

The best work usually comes from teamwork. Katherine W. Phillips said,[4]

“The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.”

Show your coworkers that you value their efforts and perspective. By working together, you can create new ideas and make something better than you ever have before.

Collaborating will not only improve your own creative thinking but will create a bond between you and your team.

9. Use humor

As a leader, you want your coworkers to feel comfortable to be creative and open-minded.

Humor has been proven to help people to relax and feel more willing to try something new and helps foster creativity.[5]

To improve your own credibility and help others gain confidence in their own creative thinking, use an appropriate sense of humor to lighten the mood when needed and to get those creative juices flowing.

10. Be vulnerable

This goes along with being honest with yourself and others. To be a creative thinker, then you have to be willing to fail, admit your failures and be open to receiving critique.

This can be difficult especially in a workplace where you want to show your strengths instead of weaknesses, but by admitting yo ur weaknesses and being open to others, your credibility will grow as your coworkers know that you listen and are adaptable.

Take a look at this article to find out Why Showing Vulnerability Actually Proves Your Strength.

11. Have meaningful conversations

Creative people love to have meaningful conversations. This is the best way to gain a new perspective.

You have had a certain amount of experiences that have shaped the way that you see the world. But everyone around you may have different perspectives. By engaging with these people, you can learn more about their views. Try to walk in their shoes and understand their perspectives, especially if you disagree.

Steer clear of shallow small talk and discuss bigger and more meaningful topics with those around you. Ask about their experiences, their hopes, their opinions and you will gain new perspectives that will assist your creative thinking.

12. Be constantly learning new things

Some of the greatest minds in the world (Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerburg) have said they dedicate at least five hours every week to learning new things.

They are passionate about growing their minds and learn about everything from nuclear physics to politics. As they learn about different topics, they look for ways to apply what they have learned to their own industry.

Start your own educational journey today by finding some books you would like to read or finding high-quality articles online about each topic.

Keep in mind your own industry and how you can apply what you learn to your job. You never know all the different ways astronomy can help your marketing efforts.

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13. Experience it all

Steve Jobs once said that creativity comes from experience.[6] The more experiences you have, the better connections you will be able to make to find solutions.

Try to experience as many things as possible. You don’t have to go on some huge trip around the world to have more experience; simply meeting new people and trying new things will give you more experience that will build your creative skills.

14. Give yourself some love

When I was younger, I was given the advice to take the time everyday before I went out for the day to ensure I felt good about myself and fully confident. Sometimes this took the shape of wearing a new pair of shoes or writing in my journal that morning.

I was told if I could take the time to prepare myself for the day, then I could focus all of my energy on the people around me. This is something that great leaders do today.

Take the time to rest and prepare for the next day, so you can throw yourself into your creative work and help those around you.

Self-care can be whatever it is that you need: a hot bath, going to the gym, walking your dog, reading, the list goes on and on. Figure out what energizes you, and do it as often as needed.

15. Take ownership

Accountability fosters your creative thinking because you know that others will see your work and know whether you did it well or not.

Creativity works best under some pressure, so take your projects seriously by taking responsibility for them.

Your coworkers will have greater respect for you as you take ownership for your work projects, even if you are disappointed in the results.

16. Be reflective

Hindsight is 20-20, so by looking back at past successes and failures, you can get new ideas for your work.

Reflecting is a part of the creative process and will help you as you continue to create and work. Learning from the past sets an example for your coworkers and will improve your credibility among your colleagues.[7]

“Creativity requires us to be confident in our areas of practice, whatever they may be. And reflection is an indispensable part of observing, developing, digesting and being in dialogue with our creative ’self’.”

17. Communicate

Communication is key to any good relationship and this includes the relationships between you and your coworkers.

Notice how your coworkers handle critique and find the best way to give them constructive criticism. Notice how your coworkers handle conflict, and find a positive way to help each of them through it.[8]

“Effective communication is one of the key prerequisites for a thriving workplace. It drives fast, clear and precise flow of information between individuals and groups. A lack of proper communication can greatly decrease productivity.”

Communication is a skill that is vastly underestimated and incredibly useful in the workplace. As you develop this skill, you can become an impressive creative leader.

18. Meet deadlines

We have all experienced those coworkers who can’t meet a deadline with their projects. It can be frustrating and throw off everyone else’s work.

To be a credible leader, don’t be that person.

I’ve already mentioned that creativity works best with a little bit of pressure. When you try to meet deadlines, you force yourself to come up with creative ideas.

Use your creative thinking to finish your projects on time, so you can meet your deadlines.

Your coworkers will know that they can count on you to get the job done on time, which will likely lead to you getting more projects.

19. Respect others

No matter how brilliant you are, if you don’t show respect for the people around you, your credibility in your workplace will suffer.

The opposite is true as well, if you show respect to each of your coworkers, your credibility as a leader will grow.

Michigan Ross Professor Jane Dutton who has conducted research on the impact that mutual respect has on creativity said:[9]

“Across our studies, we demonstrate that respectful engagement is more than simply a nice way to interact, but is a catalyst and cultivator of creativity.”

By creating a friendly workplace, not only your creative thinking will improve but also everyone around you. With a work environment of mutual respect, ideas can develop into something incredible.

The bottom line

Creative thinking and leadership abilities are some of the top skills that employers are looking for. Start applying these 19 tips to your work, and you will see great results in your own work and with your coworkers’ work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Christina Sanders

A digital marketer who is experienced in marketing and communications, helping people to lead a successful business.

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

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