Creativity is the single most important skill needed for success in the workplace of the future.
If you think that’s an exaggeration, think again! According to LinkedIn, 57% of senior leaders today say soft skills are more important than hard skills, and companies identify “creativity” as the number one soft skill in demand.
Why? Consider the wave of artificial intelligence and automation that’s currently transforming economies across the globe. As business leaders in almost every industry worry about what the eventual rise of the machines means for their workforce, it stands to reason that the ability to think through problems with originality is becoming more of an asset than ever. If, in fact, “at least 60% of occupations are largely made up of tasks that can be automated,” employees and companies who want to remain relevant in tomorrow’s workforce need to develop skills that cannot be replaced by robots.
Like any skill, creativity requires practice. However, instead of planting seeds to allow this important skill to blossom, far too many organizations do nothing, wait for inspiration to strike and panic when a moment of grand innovation never arrives. Don’t be left behind waiting on an epiphany! Here’s how to start cultivating creativity in the office today:

Make Creativity (and Failure) Important and Accepted

Unfortunately, creativity cannot be turned on and off light a light switch. Managers who demand moments of creative brilliance at the snap of a finger (without first cultivating an environment where creativity can thrive) will be sorely disappointed. Therefore, it’s important to create a work environment where creativity is actively encouraged.
To get there, leaders must make it clear that creative thinking is valued. Infusing language that speaks to its importance into internal messaging can go a long way towards starting this conversation. Ideally, each manager will echo a commitment to open communication and collaboration – within and across teams – in order to instill comfort in getting creative in employees. Before a team starts pitching big, bold ideas, they need to be assured that it’s okay to fail! Creating the environment – both physical and mental – for this to happen is the challenge that the leaders of the future will need to overcome.

Schedule Time for Imagination

All too often, managers think tossing a half-hour “brainstorming” session on the calendar every now and then will provide the spark needed for creative thinking. Unfortunately, sporadic idea sessions like this won’t develop the consistent creativity needed for a breakthrough – especially if the team is brainstorming incorrectly in the first place!
Instead, it’s up to leaders to schedule regular, repeating time that’s dedicated entirely to getting creative. While adhoc sessions, such as using ten minutes before or after meetings as time to think outside the box, may be entered into with the best of intentions, they’re not actually adding value to the team. Rather than devalue the skill by mixing it in as an afterthought to other tasks, set aside time to really dig in and do it the right way on a regular basis. Once creativity becomes routine, big ideas might just happen more often!

Encourage Outside Learning

Inspiration can come from unexpected places. For example, I recently had to give a speech at my brother’s wedding, and I was hopelessly stuck on a way to end it…until, that is, I came across an old Donkey Kong arcade game during a night out. One glance at that game and the perfect story of the two of us playing as kids popped back into my memory. In a flash, a mental block that had tormented me for weeks was gone – all because I bumped into an outdated game about a giant monkey!
While it might not seem like it at the time, sometimes stepping away from a big problem can open up creative thinking. That’s why it’s important to encourage outside learning from your team! Whether the pursuit is in the arts, fitness, civic duty or a million directions in between, sometimes the quickest path to creativity is actually a detour. You never know when a random piece of knowledge from a seemingly separate part of your life might be the key to unlocking success in another! Consider asking teammates to note one goal of personal interest outside of the office for the year, and check in with them regularly to see their progress. The more variety teammates can bring to the table based on personal passions, the better!
If creativity is becoming more important, it’s time our offices start acting like it! How will you make sure  that your team is creative enough to succeed in the workplace of the future? Share your tips in the comment section below and keep the conversation going!