Many organizations have already established processes for innovation, but do not equip the key members of their team with skills to stimulate creativity and lack mechanisms to effectively connect creative new ideas with innovation processes.

Not only do we have to help the members of our team to develop their own creative skills, but we also have to support and grow creativity and innovation within the organization.

Stimulate our teams’ creativity as Google does

We all know Google’s trajectory in its barely 20 years in the market: 85,000 direct employees, revenue of close to 100 billion dollars, and more than 1 billion users of its various products.

A good part of that success is based on an innovative culture that has sought to maintain a high level of creativity and innovation in its workforce.

In its beginnings, Google included questions that stimulated reasoning—even though they were not related to the work to be done—in its selection processes. This allowed the company to have an idea of the candidates’ creativity.

Questions like: “How many golf balls fit in a school bus?”

The logic behind the technique seemed intuitive. Ask people strange questions, see how original and well-analyzed their thought process was, and you will hire creative, high-performing people.

However, with the passage of time, Google discovered that in reality, that strategy does not predict people’s ability to do the work. They found that it is more effective to ask structured questions related to what the employees are really going to be working on.

Having learned this lesson, Google shifted its strategies for stimulating teams’ creativity towards management based on evidence from internal data. Now it shares its best practices for promoting innovation through the website re: Work.

4 key tactics for stimulating our teams’ creativity

Predict performance

Though Google is not the first company to use “puzzles” to identify creative people, it may be the first and perhaps the only large company to publicly admit the inefficacy of these practices.

There is an erroneous concept related to creativity that connects it to a type of innate, magic skill or a moment of sublime inspiration when ideas flow. However, through years of research, it has been able to be confirmed that not only can people who will be creative in their jobs be identified, but also that it is possible to stimulate employees and train them to be more creative as individuals and as work teams.

There are studies which show there are methods for identifying creative, innovative profiles and a clear pattern of characteristics that can be evaluated when hiring employees. These include knowledge, skills, and other characteristics such as personality.

Development of middle management

Google’s experience has also confirmed the importance of managers or middle managers in work groups, given that without them, employees can become distracted or feel overwhelmed by daily tasks, to the detriment of work teams’ creativity.

Through the use of tools for analyzing people, Google identified 8 characteristics that made its managers more effective. Furthermore, it was able to corroborate that good leadership can promote work teams’ creativity.

The characteristics of a manager who can stimulate our teams’ creativity include special attention to employees’ success and personal well-being in addition to having technical experience that allows the manager to advise the team and evaluate creative ideas.

Managing diversity

Many believe that diversity is a sure way to increase innovation. It is expected that if you bring together a diverse mix of people, it is more likely that you will get creative ideas from different perspectives. Though there is some evidence that suggests that different perspectives help promote creativity, it can also lead to increased conflict due to lack of understanding.

According to Google’s conclusions, the root of this problem lies in the fact that there is prejudice when people interact with others. This can obstruct people’s and work groups’ ability to work together and can even lead to ideas being rejected based on the person who proposed it and not on that proposal’s value. This, in turn, obstructs innovation in the organization.

To help its employees understand and manage unconscious bias, Google has developed a set of “anti-prejudice” programmes. These programs help employees understand other perspectives, promote creativity amongst teams, and make it easier for diversity to strengthen innovation.

Group dynamics

Through internal studies, Google also discovered that interaction amongst team members is more important than the people who make up the teams.

Evaluating aspects such as psychological safety, trust, structure and clarity, the meaning of work, and the impact of work, the company observed that psychological safety had a greater influence than the rest of the aspects evaluated.

These results demonstrate that the comfort with which team members share their ideas and exchange knowledge and lessons is key to consolidating an innovative culture in the organization.

Self-reflection question: Are people and the way they interact amongst themselves at the center of my organization’s innovation strategy?