By Erin Ollila
Business innovation doesn't just happen — it needs the right conditions to thrive. As an office manager, you might be able to help create an environment that encourages creativity and innovative thinking.
A few small changes can help motivate individuals to review old ideas and approach challenges in a different way. Here are a few ideas for helping spark innovation in your workplace:
Adjust Your Office Setup
Office managers often help design their office spaces. When the opportunity to arrange your workplace arises, keep an eye on encouraging creativity with the new layout. Getting people interacting can help encourage them to bounce thoughts off each other, and having a few quiet areas for deep focus can help occupants work on fleshing out their ideas.
If you're currently using cubicles, suggest breaking some down to allow for a small, open-office concept, and designate small quiet rooms or nooks for staff to escape from the noise. Consider creating a space for impromptu strategy sessions, where teams can hunker down with whiteboards and tear-away presentation sheets to plot new creative endeavors. If you're simply pinched for space, renovating a small breakroom is another option for giving your team a place to both recharge and collaborate on the fly.
Stock Up on Brainstorming Tools
Sometimes creativity flows best when people have the opportunity to doodle, scrawl random notes, or even play around without thinking directly about work at all.
Distribute old-fashioned tools like sticky notes, markers, presentation pads and white boards so staff can reach for them whenever they want to mind map or jot down ideas. Make sure any brainstorming session has plenty of these items on hand.
And while it may not work for all businesses, you might stock up on games or grownup coloring books for the breakroom — sometimes, getting absorbed in a different activity can help workers return to a problem with a new perspective.
Invite People in for Inspiration
Bring in outside voices for regular staff lunches or events. Start a series of get-togethers where an expert can come in and talk about new ideas in your industry. Seek out local sources who want to have real conversations, instead of giving canned speeches. Before your guest's arrival, send out an email or post a message about their ideas and contributions, so attendees can have more informed conversations.
Talking about hot topics with a voice from outside your business can jolt people out of their habits — an essential part of encouraging business innovation.
Implement Policies to Encourage Creativity
You may also be able to approach management with suggestions for how to incentivize or promote creativity through policies in your workplace. For example, propose a program that recognizes and rewards an employee who makes a suggestion that the company ends up using. Suggest a mentoring program that crosses departmental boundaries, or try having monthly creativity meetings held off-site. You might also make the case for allowing a couple paid days off every year to work on a creative pursuit — even one that has nothing to do with that person's day-to-day job.
Business innovation originates with smart individuals who can see problems in unique ways. But some environments can actually help inspire innovation. By creating the right conditions for creativity, you might be able to shake up your company's way of doing things.