Research has shown that European employees are less engaged at work than in other parts of the world. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report (1) puts European employees’ engagement levels at only 14%. This is 7% lower than the global average (21%) and 19% lower than the US and Canada (33%). It has been noted that Europe can be a great place to live but not a great place to work.
Gallup notes three big areas that affect employee engagement:
- Having clear expectations
- Feeling connected and supported by your team
- Finding purpose in your work
Jari Hakanen, Research Professor at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (TTL), stresses that “[F]or work engagement, some of the most important work resources are people being able to use their skills in diverse ways, learn new things, and develop.” (2) All three of these can be practiced and experienced through more creativity at work.
Changes mindsets from failure to learning
It is really important that people can internalise the difference between failure and learning. At some point, fairly early on, we go from learning to failure. Where things that don’t work out are determined to be failures. In reality, we must fail to succeed in most things. Things do not come out fully formed in any process.
Using creativity at work allows people to see failure as learning. Work can be a highly competitive environment but while some competition is good, it is never good to have a workforce that is happy when another part of the company isn’t successful. Ideally, you would want these antagonistic relationships to become collaborative. And to do that, there needs to be a mindset of ‘failing forward’.
This is a mindset shift that can be unsettling for both the employees and the management. Trusting that failing is a part of success means that failure needs to be shrunk both in real costs and mental costs.
Allows for adaptability
When you exercise creativity, you are able to look at things from different angles. You are able to can see customers’ needs from different angles. You are open to new ideas and comments from others to improve the idea. When you are coming from a point of creativity, you want your solution/idea/product to be the best it can be and will be consciously and subconsciously searching for connections and things to improve it.
Creativity will also have people looking in unusual directions for possibilities. It will also have people interested in collaborating with people that they normally would not.
Encourages innovation and learning
Innovation is made up of trial and error (or trial and learning). Innovation is never instant. No service or product has ever sprung from someone’s brain fully mature and ready to be delivered. Thinking creatively and collaboratively will help ideas get better and turn into testable concepts. Those concepts will be influenced by those who can wield creativity more effectively.
Creativity is also good when you have constraints because it gives you boundaries. Sometimes those boundaries are what spark innovation. Sometimes open possibilities are too free and can overwhelm. These boundaries allow you to test and try things that you might not otherwise.
Fosters growth – because it is about solving problems
Humans love a mystery. They are hard-wired to find patterns and solve problems. By solving problems in an organisation, it will inevitably become more efficient and more focused. Growth happens when you do a few things really well. You can see organisations that grow too wide often split up into smaller entities in order to focus better and to foster growth.
Using creativity and creative thinking in your organisation will allow individuals to challenge their current way of thinking. This can be seen by more efficient processes, new ideas to be explored, or even completely new niches to dominate in.
Improved work satisfaction
Allowing more creativity gives people permission to get excited about their work. It also allows people the time to recharge from the day-to-day tasks that they might be taking on. These tasks, while important, may take a lot of energy but do not replenish that energy.
Improving work satisfaction is one of the biggest ways to improve engagement at work. A lack of engagement leads to many negative outcomes; most significantly for the organisation is high staff turnover.
Boosts productivity and performance
When people are excited about their work, they naturally boost their productivity and performance. It is human nature to be curious and curiosity allows for new ideas and new connections to spring forth. Creative thinking uses different parts of the brain than most jobs and these activities can stimulate people’s minds and provide possibilities for serendipity and inspiration.
Having permission to think creatively gets people to be more open to possibilities of collaboration and breaking internal (and external) silos that may have formed in an organisation.
Creates lasting value
When you take all the previous points into account: new mindset around failure, increased adaptability, innovation, solving real problems, improved work satisfaction, better productivity and performance, you give people multiple opportunities for creating lasting value.
The process of being creative and being open to new ideas encourages us to solve real problems. By solving real problems, staff are more inspired in their work and take ownership of outcomes. Encouraging an open mind and receptiveness to new ideas also helps to improve diversity in who you serve and in how you serve them, and who gets to create in the organisation.
Pamela Spokes works as a Service Designer in Metropolia’s RDI team. Originally from Canada, Pamela has years of experience in university admin focusing on international recruitment, marketing, and the international student/staff experience. With a Bachelor’s from Canada, a Master’s degree from Sweden, an MBA in Service Innovation & Design from Laurea, and her AmO from Haaga-Helia, she is interested in purposefully designed experiences that are centred around the user. Don’t be surprised if she knocks on your door to talk about learning co-creation methods through intensive learning experiences.