Coaxing creativity out of an inexperienced employee can be difficult.
Team members with less topic experience or expertise can provide the valuable creative insights that come along with a fresh pair of eyes. But getting them to contribute ideas that might contradict (or at the very least compete with) ideas from more experienced members of the group can be hard.
Inexperienced team members worry about rocking the boat. But often, that boat rocking is exactly what your team needs to get out of the creative doldrums.
So, how can managers encourage low-experience employees to be highly creative?
Apparently, all they need to do is ask.
- The setup: In a recently published study, researchers gathered a group of jazz pianists with varying levels of experience. The musicians were asked to improvise a short piece of music. Each of these short improvisations were recorded and later assigned "creativity scores" by a panel of jazz experts (using a range, I'd like to imagine, from "that cat can't play jack" to "that daddio's one real finger zinger"). Then, the musicians were instructed to improvise another piece. But this time, they were explicitly instructed to be creative; researchers asked the musicians to "try to improvise even more creatively than your past performance" and that "creativity should be at the forefront of your mind." These second performances were also scored by the expert panel. The data from the two rounds of performance were then compared.
- The findings: Experienced jazz musicians showed little creative improvement between their first and second takes; they did pretty darn well on both. But the low-experience musicians performed way better on their second composition than they did on their first. The "be creative!" instruction significantly boosted creativity scores, but only for the less experienced pianists.
- The takeaway: Specifically request creativity from less experience members of your team. Let them know that you're counting on them to make creative contributions. Giving out "creative licenses" will help free individuals from self-imposed creative restraints and will juice the innovative horsepower of your team.