Five Simple Ways To Help Your Team Be More Innovative

It’s very difficult to come up with new ideas if you don’t have time to think. And in the fast-paced world in which we live, not having time to think is a common problem.

Recent research by innovation consultancy Lucidity identified that lack of time is the single biggest barrier to innovation within organizations. More than four-fifths (82%) of respondents to the study felt that the primary reason why their organization does not innovate is because people are too busy focusing on day-to-day challenges.

So if giving people extra thinking time is one way in which leaders can help their team members to be more innovative, what else can they do to get the creative sparks flying?

1. Limit stress at work

A small amount of stress for a short period of time can boost creativity – designers and writers often produce their best work when a deadline is looming. Prolonged stress and creativity do not go together, however, since the brain shuts down its decision-making and problem-solving capabilities when it is under duress, relying on functions associated with habit and routine instead. If you want your staff to run round in crazy circles, continually chasing their tails, keep the pressure on, but if you don’t, it’s time to ease your foot off the pedal.



2. Turn up the lighting

Slogging away for too long in dimly lit offices could be bad for the brain, according to research conducted by neuroscientists at Michigan State University. During the study, Nile grass rats were exposed to dim and bright light for four weeks. The scientists found that rats that were subjected to dim light lost about 30% activity in their hippocampus – the part of the brain associated with memory development and spatial navigation. This is bad news for innovation since research suggests that episodic memory helps to spark divergent thinking.

3. Make the most of Tuesdays

Research by Accountemps reveals that Tuesday is the most productive day of the week for employees, so this is the day when they should be able to focus on their most challenging projects instead of having their time eaten up by mundane meetings. Why not make Tuesday a meeting-free day and then hold a meeting on Wednesday instead, when everyone can exchange ideas?

4. Say no

Ian Gilbert, an educational innovator and author of The Compleat Thunks Book, believes that true creativity starts with refusal – refusing to think like anyone else. This is hard since we are all inevitably strongly influenced by our interactions with others and with our surrounding environment. What we can do in practice, though, is to work through all the copycat ideas that will inevitably pop up in our minds and keep dismissing them until we come up with something fresh.

5. Go outside

If you’re asked to imagine a brainstorm, what do you envisage? Most likely, it will be a bunch of people sitting around a boardroom table, transfixed by walls plastered with sticky notes. But is this really the best environment for fostering creativity or should all the attendees be sitting around a campfire instead? A 2012 study, by Ruth Ann Atchley of the University of Kansas, found that a team of backpackers were 50% more creative after they had spent four days on the trail. Consider holding your next team brainstorm in the park.

By Sally Percy

This Article Originally Appeared on

Keenan Orfalea