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How to Foster Creativity and Innovation in Your Business

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Read Time: 11 min

Creativity and innovation have become essential for business success in today’s fast-paced environment. You need both creativity and innovation, not just to keep pace, but also to grow and make your business more sustainable. 

Creative team collaborating on a projectCreative team collaborating on a projectCreative team collaborating on a project
Creativity and innovation in the workplace don't happen by accident. (Image source: Envato Elements)

In this post, you'll:

  • learn about innovation and creativity
  • learn how to create a culture conducive to creativity and innovation
  • come away with ideas you can use right away

You'll also learn real-life examples of how companies are making their workplaces more conducive to creativity and innovation.

Understanding Creativity & Innovation

Before we dive into the practical ways to foster creativity and definition, let’s be clear on what we’re talking about. “Creativity” and “innovation” are often used interchangeably, but they are, in fact, different.

The word “creativity” is often associated with the more artistic fields such as graphic design, writing, music composition, and art direction. But in business, creativity is a trait that’s required for all roles. The Harvard Business Review defines creativity as:

“The ability to create something novel and appropriate.” It’s also associated with out-of-the-box thinking, or the ability to come up with ideas that are uncommon, unique, out of the ordinary."

Innovation” goes beyond creativity. To be innovative, a product, service, business model, or strategy must be both novel and useful. So, something new or unique isn’t innovative if it doesn’t serve a purpose.

Another distinction is that while creativity is coming up with new ideas. Innovation is implementing those ideas.

Now that we understand the difference between innovation and creativity, we can appreciate why businesses need both. Creativity is a necessary ingredient for innovation. Without it, there can be no innovation. And without innovation, creativity remains on the level of ideas. Ideas alone don’t drive business growth. Businesses need both creativity and innovation to thrive, compete, and lead in today’s market.

How to Create a Culture of Creativity and Innovation: 3 Key Ingredients

There are three key ingredients to create a culture of creativity and innovation in the workplace.

1. Business Leaders Must Be Fully Committed

They must communicate the importance of creativity and innovation in the workplace, not just through words, but through action. They've got to lead by example. Leaders must encourage and model experimentation, risk-taking, and an entrepreneurial mindset.

Business leader nurturing innovation and creativity among staffBusiness leader nurturing innovation and creativity among staffBusiness leader nurturing innovation and creativity among staff
Business leaders must lead creativity and innovation by words and action. (Image source: Envato Elements)

2. Diversity & Inclusion Is a Must to Cultivate Creativity & Inspiring Innovation

By building a diverse and inclusive workforce, your organization will benefit from different perspectives, experiences, and ideas stemming from a rich variety of lived experience. 

3. You Need a “Safe Space” for Creativity & Innovation 

This means creating a work environment where every employee—no matter their job title or seniority level—feels safe to express themselves and share their ideas. They should feel:

  • That it’s okay to ask questions (“there are no stupid questions”).
  • Throw in their own ideas (“all suggestions are welcome”).
  • Contradict others, even senior leaders (“it’s ok to disagree”).

With these key elements in place, we can now go into specific strategies and tactics to increase innovation and creativity.

8 Actionable Ideas to Foster Creativity & Innovation in the Workplace

Here are practical ideas to spark creativity and innovation in your business:

1. Dedicate Time for Brainstorming & Ideation

Employees brainstorming to come up with creative and innovative ideasEmployees brainstorming to come up with creative and innovative ideasEmployees brainstorming to come up with creative and innovative ideas
To foster creativity in the workplace, you must dedicate time for brainstorming and ideation. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Creativity requires time and space. Schedule dedicated time for brainstorming, when your team members can focus on ideation without distractions. Make these sessions inclusive and encourage all employees to take part.

2. Encourage Cross-functional Collaboration & Communication

Organizations can sometimes perform in silos, where different departments don’t know what the others are doing. Encourage staff from different departments to collaborate and share ideas. The cross-pollination of ideas from varying fields of expertise can lead to a lot of creativity.

Cross-functional team collaborates in an office to increase creativity and innovationCross-functional team collaborates in an office to increase creativity and innovationCross-functional team collaborates in an office to increase creativity and innovation
Creativity and innovation increase when employees collaborate in cross-functional teams. (Image source: Envato Elements)

3. Provide Opportunities for Personal & Professional Development

Help employees develop both personal and professional skills through training, workshops, conferences, mentorship, and coaching. Each new skill, knowledge, and experience they pick up can increase their creativity because it gives them a deeper well to draw ideas from.

4. Promote a Growth Mindset

American psychologist Carol Dweck identifies two mindsets:

  1. The Fixed Mindset believes that intelligence, personality, and character are static and cannot be changed.
  2. The Growth Mindset believes that intelligence, personality, and character can be developed.

Those with the Growth Mindset see obstacles and failures as opportunities to learn and do better. People who have a Growth Mindset are more likely to reach higher levels of achievement than those with a Fixed Mindset.

5. Embrace Technology & Automation

Technology and automation can streamline processes and improve efficiency. They can free up time for your team to focus on more creative and innovative work. Technology and automation can also relieve your employees from tedious work that gets in the way of creativity and innovation.

6. Have a Physical Space Conducive to Creativity & Innovation

Employees playing a game in the officeEmployees playing a game in the officeEmployees playing a game in the office
Play and relaxation help to stimulate creativity at work. (Image source: Envato Elements)

The physical environment can also either encourage or dampen creativity and innovation. Make sure your work environment is conducive to creativity and innovation by providing plenty of natural light and comfortable seating areas. Having areas for both individual and team collaboration can also help. And try surrounding your employees with plants and artwork that can serve as sources of inspiration. 

If you've got a remote or hybrid workforce, support employees to set up creativity-inducing workspaces at their homes.

7. Set Up an Innovation Fund to Reward & Support New Ideas

Invest in creativity and innovation by setting aside a budget for it. You can reward great ideas with a small gift or bonus. But remember that nothing is more rewarding than seeing your great ideas come to life. Make sure your innovation fund includes a reasonable budget for testing and implementing remarkable ideas.

8. Make Breaks & Time Off Mandatory for Employees to Recharge & Avoid Burnout

Man getting creative ideas while showeringMan getting creative ideas while showeringMan getting creative ideas while showering
There's a reason why you get many creative ideas in the shower. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Have you ever had a Eureka moment while doing something mundane like taking a shower, driving, or washing dishes? Researchers call it the “shower effect” and attribute it to the benefits of mind-wandering. Our ideas incubate while doing an activity that’s only moderately engaging, until one suddenly bubbles up and we get an aha! moment.

This is why your employees need time away from their computers to rest, recharge, and pursue other interests, if you want them to be creative and innovative.

Fostering Creativity & Innovation at Work: Examples From 5 Companies

What do these ideas look like in real-life businesses? Let’s look at five companies that have become known for their creativity and innovation:

1. Google

Googleplex playground at Google Visitor Center promotes creativity and innovation Googleplex playground at Google Visitor Center promotes creativity and innovation Googleplex playground at Google Visitor Center promotes creativity and innovation
This playground at a Google Visitor Center shows how to boost creativity with a playful environment. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Look at Google’s evolution through the years and it’s clear that this is one company that lives and breathes creativity and innovation. One way they do it is through the 20% time policy:

Google employees are free to spend at least 20% of their working hours on their own pet projects. That’s eight hours or one full workday per week!

Far from being a waste of time, this policy has given birth to products like Gmail, Google Maps, and AdSense, to name a few.

Google is also known for having workplaces that nurture creativity and innovation. This includes having nap pods, swings (and other “toys”), artwork of local artists, gyms, and walking paths.

2. Pixar

Pixar is another company whose success is built on its creative and innovative culture. One way Pixar fosters creativity and innovation is by encouraging employees to take risks and experiment with new ideas. “Failure is a manifestation of learning and exploration,” said Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar. 

“If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy—trying to avoid failure by out-thinking it—dooms you to fail.”

Also consider:

“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.” —Ed Catmull in Creativity, Inc."

Pixar also encourages creativity and innovation through its physical workspace. Steve Jobs famously redesigned Pixar’s office purposefully to promote collaboration and the cross-pollination of ideas. Animators, computer scientists, editors, and executives are near each other. One key feature is the Atrium: a central space where all employees can naturally interact.

3. Zappos

It’s not only tech companies that excel in nurturing creativity and innovation. Zappos, a shoe and clothing retailer, is also known for its creativity and innovation. One way they do this is by empowering and supporting employees to deliver the best customer service. As a result, Zappos’ exceptional customer service has become legendary—including a call that lasted almost six hours and the famous pizza story. Here’s how Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh, tells it:

"...a small group of us headed up to someone’s hotel room to order food, but room service had closed at 11. When we couldn’t find a place that delivered food after midnight, a couple of us cajoled a woman (who didn’t work at Zappos) into calling a Zappos rep for help while we listened in on speakerphone. The rep was a bit confused by the request, but she quickly recovered and put us on hold. Two minutes later she told us the five closest places in Santa Monica that were still open and delivering pizzas."

4. Patagonia

Surfing to foster creativity and innovationSurfing to foster creativity and innovationSurfing to foster creativity and innovation
Working hours that allow time for surfing and other activities are examples of innovation in the workplace for outdoor clothing retailer, Patagonia. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company that’s known for putting sustainability first. Their products are good for the planet, and they prioritize the environment over profit. This nurturing attitude manifests in their HR practices as well.

“There is a powerful connection between treating our things as disposable and treating the people who make these things as disposable”

writes Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder, in his book Let My People Go Surfing: 10 More Years of Business Unusual.

The company nurtures its employees’ wellness and creativity by providing a generous flextime policy: employees can work flexible hours if they get their job done and without negatively impacting their co-workers. With those criteria met, staff can work whenever they want. They can even go surfing during traditional working hours (hence the title of the book).

Patagonia also offers environmental internships to employees. During the internship, employees can work for an environmental group of their choice for up to two months—while continuing to receive their regular paycheck and benefits.

These are just some of the perks that invigorate Patagonia employees to come up with innovative products and solutions.


As a global design company, IDEO embodies creativity and innovation. “Everyone is creative” and “innovation starts with people” are just two of the beliefs that drive how they work. For example, the company gives employees permission to play and experiment. IDEO offices have maker spaces that provide the environment and materials to stimulate brainstorming, ideation, and creation.

IDEO also nurtures bottom-up innovation. “We’ve learned that the best new ideas and capabilities are often incubated from the bottom up through someone’s personal energy and commitment,” wrote Duane Bray, then partner and global head of talent at IDEO. The company gives the overall purpose and leaves it up to each studio to localize it, and for employees to work out the best strategies for achieving the purpose.

Unleash Your Creativity With Envato Elements

Having the right tools and materials is crucial to becoming more creative and innovative at work. Envato Elements gives you all the creative assets you need to develop both print and digital communications. With an Elements subscription, you get unlimited downloads of high-quality graphics, fonts, templates, photos, music, and videos made by professionals. 

Explore Envato Elements

Creative themes from Envato ElementsCreative themes from Envato ElementsCreative themes from Envato Elements
Download creative themes from Envato Elements to streamline your work process and spark out-of-the-box ideas.

With these assets at your fingertips, you can streamline your creative processes and produce next-level materials. The templates can also inspire you and spark creative ideas you may not otherwise have come up with. And because you get unlimited downloads, you’re free to experiment to your heart’s desire without incurring extra cost.

Create a Team of Creative Thinkers

Creativity and innovation don’t happen by accident. You've got to encourage them so they thrive and flourish in the workplace. This article has given you many ideas as well as real-life examples for how you can foster creativity and innovation in your business.

Finally, take advantage of templates and creative assets in Envato Elements to unleash the creativity of your team.

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