Using the intranet to unleash creativity

For your organization and business to evolve and outclass the competition, it’s essential that you’re constantly on your toes in terms of creativity. And with a modern, social and dynamic intranet, you can in fact ensure the unbridled creativity of your employees at all times, even when they’re working from outside the office.

The best ideas are rarely conceived by someone working in isolation in his or her home office, kitchen or garage. No, they’re most often the result of collaborating minds solving problems together. The concept of brainstorming isn’t just some amusing team-building activity. It’s a proven model that delivers. To be successful, ideas need to be dissected, tested, viewed from different angles and experiences, and developed.

Even Thomas Edison collaborated with various teams to transform his ideas into viable solutions. In fact, Edison’s key success factor was his unique ability to unify and lead talented and creative minds towards mutual and passionate goals. Indeed, passion and collaboration are undoubtedly two of the most important factors in enhancing the creativity of an organization.

In times like these, when the number of remote workers is growing exponentially, it can be harder to keep the flame of creativity alight. To feel inspired, most of us need to work closely with our colleagues. In workplaces where employees work next to each other on a daily basis, creativity will often flow spontaneously in work situations of various kinds, in informal meetings and at coffee breaks. In the digital workplace, however, you may have to add more structure and fuel to the creative process.

In this blog post, we’ll provide you with some tips on how to stimulate creativity via the intranet.

Exploit the advantages of remote work

Although creativity flourishes best when people are working alongside one another, there are in fact advantages associated with isolation and remote work. For one thing, it allows you to reflect on challenges and solve problems in peace and quiet. In a busy office environment, it’s all too easy to be disturbed by meetings, ambient conversation and other distractions. A remote worker, on the other hand, has the luxury of being able to follow a train of thought to its conclusion. An interesting study in 2012 showed that, in an offsite environment, monotone and boring tasks are poorly executed while productivity soars for work requiring creative thinking.

Many of us also become more creative when we are isolated for a longer period of time, partly as a reaction to the tediousness of being alone. When children are at a loose end, they build castles and make-believe worlds. When adults are bored, they may perhaps invent a new product or a new business process. It’s been said that Isaac Newton had one of his most creative periods when he was quarantined on account of the plague in 1665.

So take advantage of the positives of isolation for the creativity of your employees. Create the best conditions possible for remote workers to channel and develop their creativity, encouraging those who need inspiration before their creative talents are revealed.

This is how to do it:

• Create forums and processes on the intranet which inspire, trigger new thinking and facilitate the formulation, testing and discussion of ideas. You can, for instance, set up a number of forums aimed at innovation, knowledge-sharing and improvement work. Then categorize the forums by prioritized improvement areas, for instance, or on the basis of your business units or solution areas. Try to create many different forums, so that each and every employee will find at least one they’d like to join. Involving employees in ideation processes is in fact an excellent way of enhancing engagement levels.

• Boost the efficiency of and overall engagement in your creative and improvement processes through Idea Management solutions, challenges, gamification and inspiring news items. With an integrated Idea Management solution, such as edison365ideas, you can generate new bright ideas by extending challenges to the entire organization or to a targeted group. Such challenges can, for instance, involve the solving of problems, improving processes or generating new ideas for sales and marketing.

Watch this webcast if you’d like to know more about how to create, categorize and populate forums and communities, or how gamification works in Omnia.

Improving the creativity of an organization is also about encouraging employees to have faith in their own ideas and wanting to share them. Read more about this in the section below.

Reap the benefits of the social intranet

The social intranet offers many benefits in terms of the creativity of an organization. Not least of them is getting more employees to contribute. As you’re probably aware, not everyone is able to find the right words to express what they’re thinking in face-to-face meetings. The best ideas might subsequently just stay where they are inside the heads of the silent. However, many people who are generally quiet in group meetings feel no inhibitions about speaking online. There are many reasons for this. One is that online communication allows you to take your time when formulating your ideas. There is simply no rush. And group dynamics work differently online. For instance, hierarchies and age differences are not as visible when you meet in the virtual world, allowing discussion and the exchange of ideas to be more equal and open.

With the unique possibilities of the social intranet to share, comment on and like postings and ideas, the ideation and knowledge-sharing processes of an organization become more structured and efficient. And as a leader, you can influence and speed up these processes by encouraging and supporting selected ideas and employees. If you respond quickly to the contributions of an employee who normally keeps a low profile, you’ll see a dramatic change in his or her behavior and engagement. And if you want the discussions of a group to head in a certain direction, you can “reward” the postings and comments of group members that fit the desired narrative.

An additional advantage of the social intranet as a platform for ideation and knowledge-sharing is its transparency and automatic documentation of everything that’s said and done online. And as you probably know, an idea lives or dies depending on the nourishment it gets from others. The more, the better.

This is how to derive the greatest benefit from the social intranet:

• Motivate employees to be more active in various forums by posting their ideas and suggestions for improvement, and by sharing and commenting on others’ contributions. Emphasize the importance of empathy and netiquette, of keeping a friendly tone in all digital communications, and of avoiding criticism unless it is given constructively.

• Boost users’ activity and engagement by using reward points and community badges (gamification) and by listing the most active contributors to the forums.

• Encourage employees to initiate new forums and collaboration rooms for the exchange of ideas and knowledge. Create step-by-step guides and/or video instructions to help show them the way.

If you’d like some tips on how best to coach remote workers or a virtual work team towards optimal productivity and creativity, this useful guide written by Deloitte is definitely worth a few minutes of your time!