Use Your Imagination

Do you remember being a kid in grade school? You had all sorts of opportunities to make things, to be inspired. You had art and music and projects that required more than one style of learning or thinking. At some point during growing up, finishing education, and being part of a work environment, you might have lost that inspiration as you became part of a more structured community or business. Being a working adult shouldn’t mean losing that imaginative spark. Fostering a productive environment needs to include an outlet for you and your employees to let your minds wander and your thoughts be free. You never know when one of those ideas is the next big thing for your company.

Maybe you aren’t the most inventive individual, and that’s okay. As a company leader, you don’t have to be the creative thinker, and honestly, you shouldn’t be. What you should do is construct an atmosphere that allows your colleagues and employees, your team, to think and share ideas freely. Suppose you present a problem to a team of, say, ten employees. Give them time and freedom and few rules, and if things go well, you should have ten different solutions by the end of the exercise. They might not all be great answers, but the beauty isn’t in the answers, it’s in the environment. What you’ve done is enabled your team to think for themselves without feeling judged or graded. You have opened communication without consequence, which will in turn allows for a comfortable and safe place for the exchange of ideas and feedback.

Try to envision your individual employees, whether they are management, technical staff, or designers, as equal members of a team. When an athletic team wins, they all share the victory. You want the same for your company team, working together to problem solve but not wasting energy on undermining each other’s ideas or taking credit in order to get ahead. Establish brainstorming sessions where anyone can come and participate. Be frank and open in these discussion groups, but not to the point of being critical or rude. The point is to encourage everyone to have a voice and to feel comfortable in sharing ideas. Provide feedback, both positive and less than positive, but keep it fair and impartial so that no one feels attacked for an idea or repercussions for a critique. The more involved and less judged your team feels, the more likely they are to cooperate with the process and each other.

Brainstorming sessions aren’t only for the start of a project; they are also a valuable tool after an assignment is finalized. Having all members of the team give input about their involvement allows for everyone to learn from one another’s experiences to build experience for new projects down the road. Using discussion groups to review can further nurture an innovative realm while looking beyond solutions to find other problems. The aim of group discussion is more than just sharing. It can be to encourage good working relationships without umbrage or ensuring everyone to appraise their ideas. It can be to consider all the possibilities.

How do you construct an imaginative team? Make it the best you can. That doesn’t mean employing people with the most experience, but those with the most promise. Recruit people that seem more capable or intelligent than you, who aren’t afraid to say what they think. Nothing is gained without risk, and fear of risk inhibits action. You want people working for you who are thoughtful and fearless, who are open to working with others and comfortable with making decisions. Once you have the right people for your team, you need to make their environment work for them. That doesn’t have to mean free lattes and bean bag chairs in the office. It does mean you need to allow for flexibility. Don’t be so structured and rule oriented that you inhibit that free exchange of ideas you are trying to generate.

Success can’t be attained without some setbacks along the way, and mess- ups are going to happen, even with your amazing team. You and your team want to be part of something meaningful, something boundless, which is more substantial than monetary success alonecreativ. Help them find the tools to make those objectives achievable, and your company will benefit as much as they will.

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