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How to Build a Culture of Creativity in the Workplace

When it comes to marketing communications, creativity is integral to getting the job done. Creativity helps new ideas come to life, develops solutions, pushes boundaries, and finds innovative and inspiring ways to interact with audiences. But shaping a creative culture in an otherwise not-so-creative environment is no easy feat. It’s up to leadership to establish the framework and build a creative culture to not only benefit their team, but also the organization as a whole.

A creative environment or culture is one where people feel comfortable expressing their ideas. It’s also a place where constructive support aides in the development and analysis of those ideas. For instance, you’re in a creative environment when your thoughts are heard, supported, and analyzed without judgment. 

And don’t let the initial concept of creativity hold you to a particular perspective. We’re quick to think of creativity as something just for writers, designers, and artists. But that’s far from the truth. IT, finance, engineers — every role and department can benefit from building a culture geared toward creativity.

According to a recent LinkedIn study, creativity is the most in-demand soft skill for employees. That’s because creativity is a critical component of innovation and idea generation, which nearly every company craves. But merely hiring someone creative isn’t going to ensure that creative culture will blossom in your marketing and communications department.

As a manager or team lead, plant the seeds to cultivate a creative culture with the following habits.

Set the mood + tone

It’s your job to build the framework for an environment that evokes your team’s creative thinking. Your team needs to feel like their voice and work is understood and appreciated if you want them to have extra mental space to churn out something fresh and new. Create time and space for them to test their ideas, see what works, and gather input.

A simple way to do this is by setting a weekly creative huddle to share new concepts and exciting ideas with no strings attached. If you’re balking at the thought of another meeting on your calendar, then this can be something that takes place on your Slack channel throughout the week. 

An essential aspect of encouraging a creative mood is an office space that brings forth ideas. If you can’t break away from the cubicle just yet, set up a team meeting hangout nearby for team collaboration. Bright open spaces with relevant art, literature, and the tools your team needs to get creative can make a big difference in idea generation, brainstorming, and creative problem-solving. And don’t forget to change scenery regularly by visiting local coffee shops, outdoor spaces, or any place that inspires you and your team.

Build a safe space

Safety, happiness, and trust are the critical ingredients for building a creative culture that actually works. Even the most creative communications pro isn’t going to speak up if they’re worried about getting sniped at by a coworker. As a leader, encourage creative ideas by making it clear that there are no bad ideas, and even better, encourage mistakes. While not all creative ideas are going to win, a strong creative team can take something lackluster to start and push it to the next level within a safe, positive environment. 

What are your goals in your role? What about for the team? What about the company?

What makes you tick and pushes you to create?

What excites you?

What frustrates you?

What are you most curious about?

Dedicate time to understanding each member of your team. Even if it seems obvious, ask them these questions and digest their answers: What are your goals in your role? What about for the team? What about the company?

And don’t forget to share your responses to these questions with the team. Vulnerability is essential to a creative environment. You can also take a fun test like Adobe’s Creative Types quiz and relay your results to the entire team. 

Be patient but consistent

What you put into sparking the creative thought process is what you get out. Patience is essential, and so is consistency. Weekly creative huddles are a start, but think about how you can build your approach elsewhere. This may be setting up a new process for how you handle campaign work, edit work as a team, interact with other departments — the opportunities are endless. 

You should also encourage your team to grow creativity with educational activities like recommendations for books, webinars, digital courses, and even conferences. And you don’t always have to approach these educational opportunities as a team. They can be structured individually with one person reporting back on new learnings and making recommendations for team development.  

Finding time to fit creative focus into the daily, weekly, and even yearly workload isn’t going to be easy, but it will be worth it. Don’t forget to carefully track your wins (even small ones!) and let higher-level leadership know about your process and the success it’s driving. Metrics matter in marketing and communications, so they should matter when it comes to team growth. 

The goal of a creative culture is to empower fresh perspectives and new ideas. Creative placemaking and mood-setting can be a challenge if you work in a non-creative environment. However, this should be the fuel you need to set fire to otherwise standard processes. You could even end up setting the tone for your entire company if this creative mood and culture catches on. 


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About Brittany Schlacter

Brittany Schlacter is the Communications Specialist at The Rapid, the public transportation authority for Greater Grand Rapids, Michigan and a Director of West Michigan Critter Haven. You can follow her thoughts and animal adventures on Twitter.