How to Promote Creative Thinking in the Workplace

Creative thinking can help employees find new solutions to old problems, create innovative products and services, and stay ahead of the competition. Promoting creative thinking in the workplace can also help employees feel more engaged, satisfied, and motivated. It’s a win-win, both for the employees and the company.

But, have you ever noticed that your best ideas don’t come to you while you’re on the job? Instead, they come when you’re jogging or in the shower? That’s because creative thinking is something that you do on your own, while you’re alone. 

Why creative thinkers are needed at work

Businesses face new challenges every day. And sometimes, the old solutions just don’t work anymore. This is where creativity comes in. By promoting creative thinking, organizations encourage their employees to collaborate and find new ways to solve problems. As a result, they can come up with new products, services, or offerings that are better than their competitors’. 

Another benefit of promoting creativity at work is that it helps organizations to think ahead. To adapt to changes in markets and consumer trends, companies must be able to assess where they are in the market and current situations quickly. When employees are trained to think creatively, they will be able to spot new opportunities and innovate quickly. 

Why we rarely feel creative at work

Wondering why we feel the most creative when we’re outside of work? Here are some of the reasons why we rarely feel creative at work. 

1. Lack of autonomy

Dr. Yoram Solomon, a trust expert/researcher, found in his doctoral study that lack of autonomy is the number one reason why employees are not creative at work. How can employees feel creative when every single thing is decided for them? When employees can’t decide for themselves how they are going to tackle their work, that’s when you kill their creativity. If they can’t choose what to work on, at least give them some room to decide how they want to get their work done. 

2. Can’t see the big picture

If employees can’t see the big picture and how their actions might influence it, they might end up unmotivated to think and act creatively. This is because they don’t have a shared vision or a shared goal that could motivate them to do more than what they’re already doing. Managers who let their employees collaborate with another department or stakeholder of a project is also promoting creative thinking. 

3. Too many distractions

Working in an office can be synonymous with getting many distractions. Meetings, calls, some taps on the shoulder. Employees don’t have enough downtime to ideate and daydream, which is essential to creativity and productivity. 

4. Stress or burnout

Stress and burnout can also impact creativity. When employees work long hours, they don’t have the extra headspace to think creatively, because they’re too focused on what’s stressing them out. You can only think creatively when you have enough energy to do it and you’re in a supportive environment. 

5. Not enough time or too busy

Imagine a job where you’re measured only on how many tasks you get done. There’s just simply no time or energy to be creative. Still around the theme of workload, if employees are too busy working on their job day in and day out, they might end up with no time to do creative thinking. This is why it’s important to make time to just sit down and think.

How to create a positive work environment and promote creative thinking

A creative person is one who has an ability to experiment, ask questions, develop innovative ideas, and turn them into actionable solutions. We know from experience that offices are not the most conducive place to be creative, because of the reasons we’ve discussed above. 

Here are some steps that you can take to promote creative thinking in the workplace. 

1. Encourage open communication and collaboration

Creativity in the workplace starts with communication. When employees are always expected to say what’s on their minds without fear of being rejected or ignored, they will feel more comfortable and safe sharing their ideas, feelings, and challenges. They will ask more questions and try to find better ways to solve problems, because they know that their ideas are always welcomed. 

In every meeting or brainstorming session, make sure to always give everyone a chance to voice their opinions and everyone else to respond to that idea. Keep an open mind and welcome every idea, especially the ones that are ‘out-of-the-box’.

2. Appreciate individuality

In a company, especially a big one, it’s easy to feel like you’re just another worker. And when an employee feels this way, they won’t bother to say what’s really on their mind. 

Make it clear that you see your employees as unique individuals, and not only workers. Recognize their effort and achievements. By doing this, you’ll also improve their satisfaction and enjoyment of work. 

3. Hire diverse talents

A diverse team means more ways of solving problems. If you want more creative thinking inside your team, hire diverse talents. When people are exposed to different perspectives and worldviews, there are more chances for an ‘aha moment’ to happen. A diverse team also makes sure that no one feels excluded or alone in the team. 

4. Stop micromanaging

We’ve discussed that lack of autonomy is one of the reasons why we don’t feel creative at work. It’s only logical then for managers and business owners to stop micromanaging. Micromanaging signals to the employees that they’re not trusted and they can’t think for themselves. Doing this in the long run will stop employees from being creative, because they don’t feel that it’s safe to come up with ideas. 

After delegating a task, trust that the employees will do their best and let them do it their own way.  

5. Provide time and space for reflection

You need alone time to be creative. If we’re constantly busy with tasks or distractions, we give no time for our brain to process what we consume and experience. To increase your team’s creativity, don’t make them attend meetings or assign them tasks all day. Instead, set aside some time for them to be alone and reflect on the work that they’re working on. Moreover, it will prevent burnout and improve their mental health

6. Reward and celebrate effort

When you see creative thinking and innovation among your employees, recognize and encourage them, even when their ideas haven’t proven to be successful yet. This can help motivate other employees to be more creative and generate more innovative ideas. When you reward efforts, you’re also encouraging risk-taking and building a culture of creativity. 


Regardless of the industry, we know that creative thinking is important for every business. As a leader or a manager, your job is to keep this creativity alive and growing. By following the steps we’ve mentioned above to encourage creativity, you’ll keep your employees creative, happy, and productive. 

Are you looking for a tool that can help with creativity and collaboration? Try Kanban Zone and check out our Creative Process template today. Build a board for your team to brainstorm ideas and collaborate online.

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About the Author: Fike Komala

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Fike has been freelancing as a content manager and virtual assistant for the past four years, helping clients with their online presence and administrative tasks. Now, she manages Kanban Zone's Knowledge Base. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new places through travel and delving into different worlds through reading. Learning is a lifelong passion of hers, and she loves discovering new things about the world and herself.

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