Creative flow happens when people aren’t feeling afraid – afraid of losing their jobs, scared of losing status, scared of being left out, afraid of being punished. The dynamics of fear can be asphyxiating to an organization.
Who is responsible for eliminating fear? If you’re a leader or a manager, then it’s you, of course. Fun helps people find their creative flow. It lets people relax, be themselves, and speak their minds. You need to set the tone. Maybe you need to get a little wacky!
For example, weekly staff meetings at Wal-Mart’s headquarters begin with a cheer conceived by founder Sam Walton . The cheer starts with the traditional “give me a W, give me an A, give me an L….” then they come to the hyphen in the store’s name. It’s called the “squiggly,” both the punctuation mark and the act of group silliness. Because at that point, everyone shakes their bottoms.
So ask yourself: Do I encourage people to relax and have fun? Do I provide opportunities for people to laugh together? Do I do things that encourage people to let down their hair? If you’re answering “no,” you’re probably not encouraging flow.
Another factor of flow is the physical work space itself. At the offices of Synergex, a software company in Northern California, there’s a special “think room” with soft pillows and an aquarium where team meetings take place. There are no offices but only low dividers between desks. The emphasis on open communication has paid off in the morale, creativity and growth of the organization.
At the Washington D.C. offices of a large lobbying firm, people work in open spaces, separated by low dividers that allow outside light to spill into every corner. Informal meeting spaces with colorful chairs and tables dot the office. Morale is high. And people feel creative. When there are no walls, no dividers, and no offices, it’s much easier for people to communicate and share ideas.
So ask yourself: Am I doing everything I can to create a creative environment? Are people able to talk easily? Are there plenty of spaces where people can meet informally to solve problems? If the answer is “no,” then you’re probably not tapping into people’s creative flow.
Related blog: Four Competencies That Build Trust