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    How Women Business Leaders Can Nurture a Creative Culture

    As a woman business leader and owner of a strategic communications firm, creativity is at the very core of my business. Without it, what would differentiate my firm from others?  In fact, I think that the very reason many businesses choose to work with a specific marketing and communications firm is precisely because of the creativity that firm possesses and from the work it has produced. Because creativity is the foundation of my business, I want to do everything I can to encourage and nurture it in my firm’s culture. One of the best things you can do is to stay out of your staff’s way!

    I liked the ideas Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer published recently, and I’ve condensed their list for you here:

    Savvy managers know how to balance four factors to properly motivate creativity and, ultimately, innovation:

    Creativity suffers when strategic goals are too loose, and when creators are too tightly constrained in how they accomplish those goals. People need to know what problem they’re trying to solve, and why it matters; they can’t be intrinsically motivated unless their work has meaning. So: clear direction on the strategic goal, but lots of leeway in how to achieve it.

    In our research inside organizations, we have often observed reduced creativity under conditions of strong evaluation pressure. In such situations, people are reluctant to contribute their ideas because they fear overly critical reactions. Curiously, we have also found reduced creativity in situations where evaluation and feedback are notably absent. The crucial balance involves a great deal of frequent, work-focused evaluation and feedback that is truly informative and constructive. To perform at their creative peak, people need to know that every idea will be respected (if not accepted) — respected enough to merit thoughtful consideration.

    We all need equitable, sufficiently generous compensation for our work, to avoid the distraction of financial worries, and to feel that we (and our work) are valued by our organizations. Recognition is another essential form of reward; it, too, signals that the person and the work are valued. Some of the most positive rewards are not monetary. As one interviewee said in a study we conducted several years ago, “Part of the reward is having your managers listen to what you have done. Having access to your supervisors increases internal motivation, so managers should be available on an informal basis.”

    When it comes to creativity, there’s good pressure and there’s bad pressure. Being told to do a tough job in a particular way, with no tolerance of failure, little expectation of recognition for success, and extreme, arbitrary time pressure, can kill anyone’s creativity motivation. But being given the same job, in a positive atmosphere where false starts are examined constructively and success is recognized, can drive creativity — and innovation — forward.

    I have written often about how important it is to encourage and motivate creativity to nurture a positive company culture. How does your organization’s management apply these motivational balance factors appropriately?

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