Build Your Creative Pipeline, Day 4: Cross-Pollinate Your Creative Thinking

Don’t let the creative departments dominate your organization’s creative process. If an idea is good, it can come from anywhere.

This is Day 4 of our creative pipeline series. Day 1 was about building a space for creative thinking; Day 2 was about observing and sharing ideas; and Day 3 was about cultivating gratitude. Check back tomorrow to see the final entry.

Know the show Undercover Boss, where a leader pretends to be a lower-level employee to get an idea of their company’s true nature?

It may be a reality show, but the truth is, organizations with strong creative pipelines are already doing a version of this as second nature.

That’s why the fourth tip in our creative pipeline series is: Cross-pollinate your creative thinking.

How to Cross-Pollinate

Simply put, this means avoiding the traditional silos that might come with running an organization and encouraging people to discuss or even work on creative efforts across departments—even if creativity is not technically a part of their job.

This might mean having meetings with an open tent, where everyone who wants to take part and share ideas can do so, whether it’s a meeting with a specific goal or an agenda-free town hall. It might also mean blowing up the org chart to follow through on a potentially powerful internal idea.

The idea here is that every department has different perspectives on certain issues—finance departments, for example, might uncover different ideas in their daily work than a team focused on marketing or membership. And bringing these people together builds company-wide creativity, along with stronger ideas overall.

Employees may actually be looking for more opportunities to be creative anyway—a Steelcase survey found that 55 percent of respondents were seeking more creative opportunities in their work.

Why You Should Cross-Pollinate

Mixing it up works against the tendency seen at many companies to put creativity in the purview of the creative team only—when in reality, everyone has a point of view on how to make their organization work more effectively.

Leaning into the points of views of others encourages more diverse thought, as you’re not relying on one particular perspective to reach your broader goals.

“By cordoning off innovation with a velvet rope, you miss the rich, diverse perspectives and creative ideas brewing under the surface across your functional teams,” explained Anne Jacoby, a workplace culture consultant, in a Forbes piece.

This is an approach that has found currency at a lot of companies. As a 2008 Harvard Business Review piece noted, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin realized that asking for ideas from throughout the ranks led to stronger results than simply leaning on their own ideas.

Jacoby noted that this sentiment worked well even in departments not traditionally seen as creative.

“Innovative thinking should be found in your legal team,” she added. “It can flourish in your finance group. It’s in sales, customer service, and operations. Creativity, when nurtured, should exist across the organization.”

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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