How to harness the creativity of our ‘Millennials’

How to harness the creativity of our ‘Millennials’

According to a recent Deloitte survey of Millennials (people born from 1982 onwards), 78% of them believe that innovation is key to business growth and 62% pinpointed creativity as the characteristic that will mark out future innovators.

Yet only 26% of them feel that business leaders are doing enough to encourage practices that foster innovation and, in particular, idea sharing.

With this in mind I was curious to explore the findings in a recent workshop I conducted with (mainly) a group of Millennials at a consumer goods company.

I asked them to tell me when they feel they are at their most creative. Some of the answers they gave were: on holiday or on the weekend; at the beach; when they feel relaxed; just before they fall asleep or first thing in the morning; when their mind is distracted by another activity – for example when they are at the gym or going for a walk.

What was most interesting to me was that no one said that they felt creative at work. This is an important insight – leaders want their team to be more creative and Millennials say that creativity is important, but they do not believe they can be creative at work.

I asked them a follow up question: What stops you being creative at work? Some of the answers they gave to this question were: limited time; competing priorities; that they feel stressed and under pressure; they find themselves constantly interrupted; not motivated or interested; or they don’t agree with the goal.

I am the first to admit this is not a scientific sample, but the following might shed some light on this wasted opportunity.

Leadership actions to harness the creativity of Millennials:

  • Explain the importance of a particular goal. This builds greater transparency and trust.
  • Agree the ‘what’ (the goals and objectives) but leave the ‘how’ to the team. This will build more engagement and allow some freedom of action.
  • Constantly talk about the need for greater creativity and innovation.
  • Set yourself up as a role model and demonstrate a greater openness and receptivity to new ideas.

Our young have amazing ideas and they see the world differently. If I was a corporate leader, I would be desperate to hear the views of my younger team. I am sure I would learn something from them.


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