5 Ways Creative Employees Can Drive Innovation

April 29, 2016 Keelin McDonell

Creative Employees Innovation

Creativity in business is having a moment.

Recently, a flurry of books and articles has highlighted the importance of creativity in driving innovation, particularly in the technology space. Experts are urging employees and managers alike to make some time for procrastination, break down communication barriers through comedy, and meditate over tough problems. Others focus specifically on ways programmers and software developers can free themselves of traditional thinking and processes to encourage major breakthroughs.

Not every company is quite ready to sign up its workforce to be stand-up comedians, though. But there are five simple ways, regardless of your job or employer, that you can harness creativity in your day-to-day working life.

1. Facilitate cross-team brainstorms

If you work day-in and day-out with the same team members, owning and implementing similar projects, you’re likely to fall into a pattern of “groupthink.” Many companies also make the mistake of separating non-technical and technical functions to the point where communication between the two sides is totally silo’d. Huge mistake.

Some of the best business ideas come from different functions coming together to look at problems in a new way. It’s possible that a marketing manager has a fantastic idea for improving a tough UX challenge in your software. Or that a developer has great feedback on improving corporate communication. Keep those channels open and everyone will benefit.

2. Don’t accept the status quo

Don’t like the way a project is going at work? Can’t stand reading the same report again? If you want to innovate, whether you’re at a scrappy start up or a corporate behemoth, you have to be willing to challenge the current state.

This doesn’t mean burning every bridge in front of you. But you do need to confront broken processes and advocate vocally (and specifically) for improvements. Make sure to come prepared with the background research and information needed to prove your point.

3. Start with the problem

Many of us find ourselves doing the same tasks in our jobs week after week — pulling the same data, creating the same reports, attending the same meetings. And these routines often develop for very good reason: information needs to be spread and understood in a predictable way. But all too often, these tasks fail to evolve with the needs of the business.

Once a quarter, try to take stock of all your projects and assess whether your approach is really solving the root problem. We see it all the time with our clients as our Advanced Natural Language Generation platform, Quill, is often leveraged to address communications gaps that are assumed to already be solved. You may think your team is reviewing your weekly spreadsheet but are you sure they are actually understanding and drawing the relevant insights? If not, it may be time to find a new solution.

4. Focus on the why

When you’re trying to affect a major change at work, it’s easy to get lost in the nitty-gritty of implementation. It can also be frustrating to try to corral a large team to deliver on an idea. But before you get frazzled, remember the original inspiration for your idea — the reason you are all rallying around.

Focusing on the big-picture “why” behind change helps bring the smaller details into perspective. Today’s hard tasks don’t seem so bad when you keep the ultimate goal of innovation front of mind.

5. (Re)Examine assumptions

One of the keys to innovation is a constant willingness to look at your own assumptions and adjust your view and approach as your career (and situation) evolve. Even the greatest ideas will reach a point of natural obsolescence.

The most creative types will stay keenly attuned to changes around them and adjust accordingly. Most importantly, these folks don’t see change as a threat but an opportunity for growth.

At Narrative Science, we try to keep these tenets in mind as we strive towards innovation and constant improvement.

To learn more about working with our team and being part of our mission, check out our open positions!

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