Creativity at Work: Coloring Outside the Lines While Thinking Inside the Box

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Imagine this: you are sitting on your normal Monday morning conference call being grilled about hitting the weekly benchmarks—sales, profits, team expansions. You have implemented all of the suggested tactics, but the old solutions just. aren’t. working. anymore.

You have new strategies to try, but they fall on deaf ears. Sound familiar?

You aren’t going crazy. There is a barrier against creativity in the workplace – even if we don’t mean to have one! According to research from Cornell University, this creativity bias is a subconscious reaction to avoiding risk and minimizing uncertainty in the face of the unfamiliar. Even if your boss wants (and emphatically states a desire for) new, creative ideas, this creativity bias actually prevents novel suggestions from being recognized, encouraged, and accepted.

So, what can you do to convince your boss that your creative solutions are viable, while toeing the company line?

  • If your company is devoted to developing innovative ideas, try tying innovation to embracing a certain amount of uncertainty. After all, being new, different, or improved requires changing the status quo. Cite exciting, risk-taking thinkers. Think Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Sergey Brin.
  • What if your company has an aversion to all things new? Try reducing the uncertainty and risk for your boss and decision-makers. Are there studies that support your suggestions to improve efficiency, morale, or productivity? Present them as evidence that your suggestions are proven and effective.

Either way, you can color outside the lines while thinking about what’s inside the box.

How have you exercised creativity at work? Share your comments below.

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