Every leader wants employees with great ideas. But great ideas don’t just appear in a vacuum. They tend to come most readily in environments where people feel intellectually stimulated, where deep thinking is valued and, most importantly, where people are given the time to think. Here are five ways you can nurture that environment in your company and among the people who report to you.
Choose a video of the day
Start a book club
Schedule in creative team building
Take a MOOC together
When Sal Khan started posting his videos years ago at KhanAcademy.org, he only covered math topics. But now Khan Academy features everything from physics to economics to art history. Send around a selection of a favorite video each day and bring up what you learned in conversations. Even writing a fact from a video on the white board before meeting starts will send the message that it’s OK to spend time stretching your brain.
You can access classic works of literature in bite-size chunks via DailyLit (which emails a passage every day from books like The Odyssey or Moby Dick). Host once-a-month lunchtime discussions until you make your way through. Or you can buy a more current book for everyone and have the author call in during a lunchtime discussion. You may be surprised how many authors are willing to do this!
Yes, you’re busy. Yes, everyone has a lot of work to do. But the work will still be there if you have an art teacher come in with paints and canvases for a 90-minute workshop. It will still be there if you all go do a session at a local pottery studio or learn how to make fabulous pastries at a commercial kitchen that does classes. When people get away from their inboxes for a while, they get a ton of ideas, and doing team building during the workday scores points from people who feel like they don’t see their families enough anyway.
This takes some effort, as people get a lot of emails and tend to delete most newsletters they receive. But if your links to articles and reports are relevant and interesting (be sure to put the highlights in the email and interrupt an intriguing sentence with a “…” to get people to click), you can get your team in the habit of reading them. This is especially true if you devote 5 minutes at the start of any staff meetings or calls to discussing them.
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) let people around the world hear from top professors and work through assignments, just like you would at that university. Coursera.org, for instance, features free courses taught by professors from Princeton, the University of Michigan, Duke University and other places, and covers topics from robotics to world history. MOOCs tend to have a high dropout rate, but if you take a course as a team, you’ll be accountable to each other.