How to Build a Creative Culture

creative culture

It’s no secret that culture is more important than vision. I’ve worked in creative, vibrant cultures where original thinking is valued, people listen to each other, and wonderful things happen. On the other hand I’ve worked at organizations where you could literally feel the oppression when you walked into the building. Those destructive cultures often have leaders with great vision and potential, but because the culture is so negative, that vision will never be realized. Right now, during this time of turmoil around the world, creativity will be vital in providing a roadmap out. And right now, this is the time to develop a creative culture inside your organization.

How to Build a Creative Culture

So how to do you build a creative culture? In my book Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking, I describe 10 principles I’ve used to turn around numerous organizations:

1. Create Stability – Creative people need stability. If they’re worried about losing their job, financial problems, or excessive turnover, they’ll never release their best ideas. I’ve seen terrible leaders think they’re motivating the team by threatening them with being fired – which is the worst thing you could ever do. Even when you’re going through difficult times, create an atmosphere of stability for the team. You’ll be rewarded down the road.

2. Make it Safe from Excessive Criticism – Critics are a dime a dozen, but leaders who can help their team move from bad ideas to legendary ideas are rare. There’s a time to look at what doesn’t work, but that should be done in an atmosphere of trust. Criticism always goes down better when it comes from a trusted and respected source.

3. Make Sure Your Leaders Are On the Same Page – All it takes is one of your leaders to contradict what you’re trying to do to wreck a creative culture. At the beginning of building your culture, make absolutely sure your leadership team is unified and moving with you. One critical or disconnected leader or manager can sow seeds of doubt that will topple the entire project.

4. Be Flexible – Creative people don’t all operate on the same schedule or work the same way. Give your team some flexibility and it will revolutionize their attitude. At one major nonprofit I talked the CEO into allowing the creative team to rip up carpet, repaint, dump the cubicles, and design their own work spaces. There was fear and trembling on the CEO’s part, but within a matter of months, the creative team transformed that organization.