A young man stands behind the service counter at a cafe. He leans against the edge of the counter with his arms folded and a confident smile on his face. The man wears a dark gray pinstriped apron over an olive green long-sleeved polo shirt. On top of the part of the counter running parallel to the man is a large coffee machine, on top of which are piles of cups and mugs.
Embracing creativity in the workplace means giving your employees the time and space to take a breather and think without interruption. — Getty Images/Lyndon Stratford

An IBM survey of 1,500 CEOs found that creativity was listed as a top leadership skill. But if you want your business to thrive, you also need employees who are creative and innovative. Here are five ways to encourage employee creativity:

Come up with a vision statement for your company

A creative workplace starts with a strong vision statement that outlines your company’s values and how your company stands out from its competitors. Your vision statement should be equally ambitious and practical — it’s inspiring but still feels doable.

Once you have a vision statement, you should reiterate it to your employees frequently. Anytime your company sets a new goal, you should explain how it fits with the overarching vision statement. This helps employees see how their work impacts the direction of the company.

[Read more: Writing a Mission Statement: A Step-by-Step Guide]

Give your employees freedom

As a leader, the best way to encourage creativity is by getting out of the way and giving your employees more autonomy. When employees feel like you trust them to do their jobs well, they’ll be more motivated to think outside the box and deliver big results for the company.

You need to find that delicate balance between managing your staff and still giving them the sense of freedom they need. That starts by getting rid of a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to employee management.

Take the time to get to know each of your employees personally so you can understand their strengths and weaknesses and how they work best. This also shows your employees that you’re invested in their growth and development.

[Read more: 6 Ways to Balance Managing Employees While Giving Them Freedom]

Encourage employees to identify problems

The most innovative products and services are born out of necessity, so creativity starts by identifying a problem. However, while most leaders encourage problem-solving, the ability to identify problems is a frequently overlooked skill set.

Make your workplace a safe place where team members are encouraged to fail, and share what they learned from their failures.

Set up a “problem box” at work and encourage employees to write down and submit anything that bothers them about their jobs. Take the time to evaluate and discuss these observations — you never know which one could lead to a breakthrough.

Encouraging employees to identify problems also helps your organization avoid the mindset of “this is how it’s always been done.” It creates a culture that’s open to new ideas and willing to change and pivot.

Embrace failure

According to a professor at Harvard Business School, roughly 30,000 new products hit the market each year, and 95% of them fail. Great leaders know that failure is a stepping stone toward creativity and innovation.

But unfortunately, too many workplaces hide their failures or look for scapegoats to blame. When employees are afraid to make mistakes, they’ll be less willing to share their ideas and think outside the box.

Make your workplace a safe place where team members are encouraged to fail, and share what they learned from their failures. You can do this by sharing your own mistakes with your team and telling them how you built upon those failures. And when mistakes do happen, never point fingers or blame your employees.

[Read more: Don't Be Afraid of Failure! 4 Smart Strategies for Learning From Your Mistakes]

Give them time to think

According to Psychology Today, most people come up with creative solutions when they have the freedom to think and let their minds wander. If your employees are constantly rushing to meetings or under tight deadlines, it’ll be hard for them to find time to think.

Have your employees schedule a few hours each week for unstructured thinking time. Encourage them to identify some challenges they’re facing at work, and spend time thinking through those problems and writing down whatever solutions they come up with.

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