How to Help Employees Become More Creative

Creativity is often critical to business success. It helps engage customers, solve problems and drive innovation. That is common knowledge for many leaders. But what’s not always known: How does one foster such creativity?

We have an answer for you — one we can back up with research.

Our research team (Dong Liu, Christina E. Shalley, Sejin Keem, Jing Zhou and myself) poured through 191 independent samples of studies that looked at approximately 52,000 people.

Our findings showed that being confident and interested in doing creative work are the two most important predictors of individual creativity. We also found that thinking about how their work can benefit others could also help people become more creative.

But how can we make people feel confident in their creative ability and become intrinsically and prosocially motivated?

The first suggestion is to hire people who are conscientious and open to new experience because they tend to accumulate rich mastery experience for creative tasks. Another piece is autonomy. You cannot tie down employees with endless ropes of rules. You need to let them be to a degree. This will help dial up with their own self-motivation. And through this motivation comes ongoing learning along with a variety of trial and error.

As a leader, you need to welcome the learning and experimenting and create a supporting environment. Don’t stifle it. Let them try, fall, get up and try again.

If you give the right people the right environment, you can capture the fruits of their incredible imagination and creativity.


Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.