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Ways to encourage innovation in creative workplaces.

06 Oct 00:00 By Georgia Mandarino

What Can Emerging Graphic Designers Learn From Those That Went Before Them 6

Encourage innovation in the creative workspace. 

Tips on how you can foster an innovative environment.

Firstly, it’s not easy for businesses and agencies to balance the demands of clients, budgets, projects, human resources and making the workplace innovative. This is compounded by people not being together in the same space or at the same time. 

There are lots of things competing for attention, but there are some things you can do now and in the future to foster a workplace of creativity and innovation. 


The sentiment, culture and tone always come from higher up. The support and encouragement has to be forthcoming so that employees know there is an environment of collaboration, challenges and convergent thinking. Apple’s Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” The reward for solving problems not just winning financially, pushing people to find that ‘lightbulb’ moment, giving employees time to think, it’s almost always never a waste of time. Allow some time to focus on forward-thinking rather than always on the doing. 

Workplaces with heavy hierarchy are often innovation killers. A flat, open and sideways culture breeds outside the box planning and implementation. Have employees work across departments, with different teams and with juniors and senior staff regularly. Pushing outside of routine is another way to ensure issues, roadblocks and speed humps get sorted. Innovation is everyone’s remit, not just management and leadership. 

Make it a habit

Company retreats and conferences should not be the only time innovation is discussed or pursued. It needs to become ingrained and championed. Find people that are honest thought leaders within the organisation.   Have them work on projects with others who may not be so progressive. In every organisation, some people are naturally aligned with open thinking and problem solving, identify who they are and match them to encourage others. Make it part of daily tasks, meetings, group sessions that multiple approaches to problem-solving are what is expected from the team.

Constructive daydreaming and space to think should be factored into the work day. Some organisations give employees time to work on their brainstorming and have found that it promotes innovation across the whole business. Develop a company wide strategy and use it, let all your people see that implementation is as essential and planning and thinking. Ensure it’s part of professional development for everyone. 

Experiment & allow mistakes 

You know what they say - if you're not making mistakes you're not learning and there is some truth to that. The key is trying, testing, approaching from different angles in different ways and you can’t succeed or be on the money each and every time. Experimentation leads to a more confident approach and it can often make the right path clearer. 

Innovation is born from a hot bed of mistakes so don’t discourage this in your team. Embrace it and move on and know that through this will come something great or something worthwhile and different. 

Look for opportunities to collaborate

This could mean working with other companies within your market or niche, banding together to come up with a better offer. Working closely with a  group of clients or suppliers to fine tune and hone in on what you do best, make it better and squeeze out competition. 

Collaborating with other departments often leads to efficiencies and a better understanding of the needs of different segments of the business. Ask for feedback, suggestions and really take a look at the information that is shared with you as it’s extremely valuable. 

Be open & communicate

This one you may have heard before but it’s important to actually live it and implement it with the whole group. Clear consistent communication and messaging about the company, success and failures is all part of the process. Letting them know that innovation is part of the whole teams responsibility and it’s something that they are required to participate in. Not just be a bystander to the creatives in the group. 

A company like ‘Square’ require meeting notes to be circulated and made public in the organisation so that everyone is aware of the problem solving that is being undertaken in all departments. It’s important that when your team is thinking creatively about an issue that they don’t feel threatened, inferior or like they might be shot down. 

Champion successful innovation

Call out great work and great teams. Reward and acknowledge when an innovation has saved the company time and money. Recognise the effort and make sure you sing the praises outlining the problem and the solution is important. Often people are not motivated by fancy gifts or financial pats on the back (although some are) recognition from leadership and kudos from their peers is often equally rewarding. 

Work spaces & collaborating software

Lastly but perhaps most importantly, take a close look at your workspaces. With remote work there could be an opportunity to redesign the office space, move to smaller, closer workspaces or do away with the traditional office and consider a co-working hub etc. Don’t underestimate the layout of the work space and design of the office when it comes to collaborative teams and employees. 

Creating informal meeting spaces, positioning teams close to other teams can sometimes lead to unstructured and fluid innovative ideas. Look at the physical hierarchy within the office and look to have leaders live amongst their teams. Companies that take this approach are also ranking highly as brands people want to come to work for and are sought after employers. 

Software and online tools also can help foster group thinking, new ideas and open communication with your team. Ensure these tools are in place to make sure remote working doesn’t stifle innovation for your business. 

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