When you ask your team to come up with creative ideas, do you get the input you want? If you don’t, it doesn’t mean that your team lacks creativity. Even though some people are inherently more creative than others, everyone has the ability to generate original ideas.

If you aren’t getting the creative, out-of-the-box thinking that you want from your team, it might be time to make changes in the organization. Creativity flourishes in an environment that fosters new and imaginative thinking. Nurturing creativity in your small business might require changing some of your processes and instilling a greater sense of community.

Here are some suggestions to foster the creativity and innovation that you need to keep your company moving ahead and competitive. Some of them are about your leadership; others are tangible ways to ignite a spark among your team.

Send the right leadership messages

  • Sometimes employees hold back from giving ideas and suggestions because they are afraid of failure.  Make it clear to you team that you are to open to taking risks. In an environment where you embrace failure, employees will be more open to propose ideas that aren’t just ‘safe.’
  • Inspire your team to try new ways of doing things all the time, for example, leveraging social media or a new mobile app to improve for customer service and marketing. Your message should be that everything can benefit from doing something in a new way. Even incremental changes in a process or procedure can make a difference. No one should hold back waiting for one big inspired idea to change things 180 degrees.
  • Reject the “it can’t be done’ attitude. Encourage your team to ask “how can we make that happen?” Even if there isn’t a solution; everyone learns from trying.
  • Don’t be critical: Some ideas need to go back to the drawing board, but don’t be critical. You don’t want to discourage people from coming up with ideas because they fear ridicule or rejection. Also in that regard, don’t be elitist. Don’t assume only your management team or senior employees will be able to come up with creative ideas. Ask everyone for input – even your interns if you have any.   Also, encourage people to bounce ideas off of one another. Wometimes the best ideas sprout from a daisy chain of ideas or are triggered by ideas that didn’t seem that good in the beginning.

Make operational changes

A few years ago, “In 8 Ways to Foster Innovation in Your Company,” Inc. shared some of the ways companies ignited the creative spark within their organization. Some of the more unique ways included:

Solar System in Southern California used an online survey to allow employees to review idea submissions form their peers. The winner got $500. CEO Mike Hall said the came up with the idea because they knew they had employees who were too shy to share their ideas.

At Intuit, engineers and project managers get to devote 10 percent of their time to working just on new ideas. It’s how the company developed many of its new products and features.

Marketing and consulting firm BrightHouse gives its employees five “Your Days’ in which they are encouraged to visit a spot conducive to reflection. The company also has an annual event known as March Fo(u)rth when each employee is encouraged to do something they never attempted before – skydive for example.

When you come up with creative ways to get the creativity flowing, you send a powerful message. What have you done to encourage creative thinking among your team?