In the public sector, one might argue, it is a particular bad time to talk about ‘blue skies’ or ‘big ideas’ when people are losing their jobs and budgets are being cut to the bone.
And yet it remains the case that creativity remains vitally important to businesses and organisations, including those in the public sector most struggling in the current climate.
A recent study at Harvard Business School identified that creativity can not only be developed and fostered if you find the right incentives, but that this dramatically improves the efficiency of an organisation.
Specifically, professors found the most important factor when trying to encourage creativity at work, as well as a positive, upbeat attitude and well motivated staff, was simply a sense that progress is being made – however small.
Even seemingly banal and everyday events can give a significant uplift to employee mood and motivation – such as giving people a little space and time to work out a solution, setting some goals and allowing a little autonomy – or even allowing room for a little creativity.
Conversely, and rather unfortunately, the same study found that small setbacks have a disproportionately negative impact. As we all know from the way news works, negative stuff tends to make a much bigger impact on our psychology than anything positive.
There is even a suggestion that you can put a scientific number to this – the effect of a minor setback can be two or three times stronger on a person’s thinking than the effect of a small victory.
At the other end of the scale, big wins are a tremendous boost to morale and motivation – seeing and feeling the tangible outcome of a successful campaign, for example, or winning a major pitch.
But in a world dominated too often by the negative, big and small, in the midst of recession, it is as well to remember that the small wins need to be highlighted too and that, especially as managers but also as co-workers or peers, we need to work away to exploit these as much as possible.
From small wins comes more motivation and more creative thinking – and creative thinking, whatever business or public sector organisation you are in, is often the solution to a problem. Even – or perhaps, especially – when money is so tight.
Luke Blair is a director at London Communications Agency