5 Steps to Encourage Team Creativity

Anybody else wish you could squeeze a little bit more creativity out of your team?

Every day, teams of talented, creative, thoughtful, passionate, hardworking men and women give blank stares, burn valuable time and energy, and hold back on their creative talents when given ideal opportunities.

These opportunities may be pathways to improve community relationships, create meaningful client experiences, contribute to greater organizational health, or develop a stronger staff and volunteer culture.

So why is your team holding back when they have so much to offer?

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If you have a team struggling through this “holding back” kind of season, you may be asking, “What’s wrong with this team?!” or “I’ve given them complete freedom to make improvements or come up with something brand new here! What’s the deal?”

But, do you know what they really need?  

A framework.

Call it a system,
a structure,
a playing field,
a pathway,
a pipeline,
a canvas,
a routine or rhythm,
parameters,
guardrails,
boundaries,
lines,
or expectations.

Whatever you call it, your team needs more than just new opportunities—they need a framework.

My old boss used to remind me: “We create systems for efficiency so we can free people up for creativity.”  

And what he meant was this: we give people a framework so they don’t have to guess on the expectations. We give people a framework so they don’t have to guess on the boundaries, so they don’t have to guess on the edges of the creative canvas they’ve been given with a new program or project, so they understand the paradigm.

“But doesn’t structure crush creativity?” I hear this a lot.

Yes, if we’re not careful, structure can crush the creativity of an individual or a team when the framework is too tight, when the box is too small, or when there’s no room to speak into the paradigm.

But a little bit of structure can actually create the freedom your team needs in order to bring their creative best to the table. So, next time you’re inviting creative feedback or asking your team to run with a new project, try this:

5 Steps to Encourage Team Creativity:

1. Tell a Story: before you dive into project details, share the vision or paint a picture of your desired future with this project, program or ministry area.

2. Establish Guardrails Together: have a conversation on parameters, expectations and essentials of the project that support the vision.

3. Develop the Scope and Sequence: talk about a timeline and think through questions like: How long? How much? How often? How does this support the vision?

4. Make a Commitment: stack hands as a team on individual and collaborative contributions to this project, program or ministry.

5. Stay Creative: find ways to constantly infuse creativity into the framework.

And I'd love to hear from you re: encouraging team creativity!  Share your ideas, suggestions or lessons learned by emailing me at beth@bethgraybill.com

Beth Graybill