Inspiring creativity and innovation in all generations

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Inspiring creativity and innovation in Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomers & Traditionalists

Creativity in business is a key to developing new processes, establishing strategies and using different models to achieve corporate goals. Creativity allows you to solve business issues in innovative ways, look at challenges differently, and reframe obstacles into opportunities. Seeking input and points of view from a wide range of perspectives inspires creative problem solving.  This is particularly important to do within a multigenerational team.

Barriers to Being Creative

There are often individual and systemic barriers to creativity within an organization. Individuals may not believe that they are creative and therefore might not give themselves permission to think outside-the-box or challenge their own assumptions.

Sometimes, when we are too focused on logical thinking, we don’t allow ourselves to freely imagine how a situation could be handled differently. In addition, if we possess a fear of making a mistake or being wrong, we are much less likely to be open to creative thinking techniques or novel ideas.

At an organizational level, barriers exist when there are strong silos in an organization, which prevent cross-functional collaboration from occurring. In addition, strictly enforcing rules can inhibit creativity by sending the message that new ideas aren’t welcome.

The Role Leaders Play

Workplace research has found that the main drivers to creativity are the behaviours and attitudes of leaders.
Leaders who have an informal management style tend to put employees at ease and, thus, encourage the sharing of new ideas. In order to create a culture of innovation, leaders should take action to clear hurdles for employees and provide a vision for how new, creative ideas can be used to increase organizational performance.

Leadership behaviours that support creativity include:

  • Clearing obstacles or barriers
  • Socializing informally
  • Updating employees on pertinent information
  • Sharing information on a personal level
  • Setting a vision
  • Offering helpful and positive feedback
  • Recognizing good work in front of other employees
  • Soliciting ideas from employees

Leadership behaviours that inhibit creativity include:

  • Pressuring employees with deadlines
  • Assigning tasks that do not fit the talents of individual employees
  • Not setting the appropriate vision or goals
  • Communicating conflicting goals
  • Monitoring work too closely (micro-management)
  • Providing negative feedback without helpful suggestions
  • Not valuing or listening to employees’ ideas

Generational Considerations

Our Generational Advisory Council provided us with insights into their experiences as it relates to creativity and innovation.

50% of Gen Xers and Gen Ys described themselves as creative while 42% of Baby Boomers strongly agree that they are creative.

Baby Boomers were significantly more likely (57%) to rate their employers as creative and innovative, compared to Gen Xers or Gen Ys . Interestingly, Boomers also felt their colleagues were quick to adapt to changes (29%), while the majority of Gen Xers and Gen Ys felt their team members were only somewhat adaptable. This may be due to the fact that Gen Xers and Ys may perceive their more experienced colleagues, who often focus on rules and processes, as less likely to adopt new changes.

More than half of all respondents indicated that their senior leaders are open and encouraging towards new ideas. This is likely to encourage employees to voice their opinions and thoughts. 83% of Gen Ys said they take initiative to share their creative ideas with their manager, which isn’t surprising given Gen Ys desire to contribute to problem solving and. willingness to voice their opinions and thoughts.

When seeking ways to encourage creativity and innovation across the generations, focus on how each employee can be creative in their role.  Support employees in challenging the status quo and partner up more experienced employees with younger employees to brainstorm new thoughts to an existing problem.  This will inspire greater collaboration and free-flowing of ideas which is essential to generating innovative and creative ideas.

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