Creativity is not simply a means of gaining a competitive advantage over your rivals, but of transforming your staff’s experience of the workplace – to the extent that they would be more likely to stick around.
That is the message of a recent Forbes article by business writer Peter Himmelman, who explores the creativity route adopted by Chicago law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC to improve staff morale. Himmelman explains: “They told me they wanted their people to think in more innovative and creative ways … As their answers emerged I began to understand how serious Levenfeld Pearlstein was about improving its culture.
“They were looking for a change in focus from a concentration on standard processes like preparing contracts (an important function, but one that can be delegated fairly easily) to things you’ll sometimes hear derisively described as ‘soft skills’ – like storytelling, empathy and vulnerability. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who had just made partner at a different law firm, she looked at me with a sardonic grin and said, ‘Wow, sounds like a hippie commune. At our firm we focus on the bottom line.’
What role can so-called ‘soft skills’ play in an organisation’s creativity journey – and how can they help to reshape or revive its underlying culture to produce a noticeable impact on its people?
The Institute of Leadership & Management's CEO Phil James says: “Creativity and innovation are essential to the survival of organisations, because every idea, product and service has a finite lifecycle that will eventually expire. We need to keep introducing new products and services, new ways of doing things and disruptors simply for the private sector to maintain its existing levels of profitability.”
James notes: “One of my favourite quotes about this is from fantasy author Ursula K LeGuin, who said, ‘The creative adult is the child who survived.’ What LeGuin means is that for children, creativity is a very natural, unselfconscious process. They will draw and paint and sing and dance in front of people without ever giving it a moment’s thought. Creativity just spills out of them. So harnessing creativity in the way that Himmelman discusses it is really about making work fun.
“That association with play and fun is very important. If you enjoy coming to work – not just in a social sense, but the actual meat of the work itself, and the business of delivering as part of a team – then of course your people will be more loyal. They will care more. They will be better advocates of your organisation – not just to your customers or end users, but in the fight for talent, too. They’ll tell people that your organisation is a great place to work.”
He adds: “There are no downsides to making the workplace as creative as possible. It keeps you vibrant, dynamic, alive and flourishing. It makes you an attractive prospect for jobseekers – and an equally attractive home for those who are already there.”
For further thoughts on creativity, check out these learning resources from the Institute