What can a leader do to stimulate creativity?

How to Lead a Creative Work Team


  • A leader needs to stimulate team members’ creativity in order to create a culture of innovation.
  • Providing resources for creative endeavors, including money and time, can stimulate innovation.
  • Decades of research support the fact that more diverse teams tend to be more creative.

In most industries, creativity and innovation are critical to success. From a leadership perspective, here are six of the best practices for building and sustaining a creative work team or organization:

1. Provide Intellectual Challenges.

Transformational leaders are able to lead teams to higher levels of performance. One component of transformational leadership is Intellectual Stimulation (Bass & Riggio, 2006). This involves getting team members to question assumptions, try new things, and “think outside of the box.” In providing intellectual stimulation, a leader may ask challenging questions, reframe problems and issues, and actively encourage innovation. Of course, you don’t want to overwhelm members or push them too far, but the leader’s job should be to stimulate and challenge.

2. Provide Slack Resources.

This might include having a budget that supports innovative ventures, but it can also be achieved by providing time that allows team members to work on creative projects. Google became famous for allowing employees 20% time to work on innovative projects that benefited the organization. Providing support for creative ideas and projects, and allowing employees substantial time and freedom, are key

3. Create a Culture of Innovation.

This involves making creativity an ongoing and integrated part of the organization’s identity. In one engineering firm, members are recognized for the number of patents awarded, and their accomplishments are put on a “wall of fame” designed to encourage others to be creative.

4. Create and Support Diverse Teams.

With the greater team, and member diversity comes more ideas and perspectives that foster creativity and innovation. To leverage this, think in broad terms about the diversity of team members – not just demographic, cultural, or other “surface” characteristics, but diversity in how people think and operate as well.

5. Encourage Collaboration.

Help team members find ways to work together toward creative projects and solutions. Encourage the sharing of ideas and recognition that there are multiple contributors to meaningful innovative products and ideas.

6. Embrace and Learn from Failure.

Understand that in innovative teams and organizations many new initiatives and ideas are likely to fail. Use these failures as an opportunity for members to learn and move forward. A hallmark of agile management is the willingness to try new things and learn from failure, continuously moving forward.

Think about some of the times you have been part of a creative team or venture. What were some of the critical dynamics? You can use these strategies to better lead a creative team or organization.

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