Thinking Creatively About Workplace Issues

HR professionals often find themselves confronted with a constant stream of workplace problems and issues that need to be addressed. Nowadays, workplace issues require a different approach – a more creative and innovative method of doing things. Most of us, however, don’t rise to the challenge.  In the face of a changing workplace with new demands, constraints, and competition there is a need for a new type of leadership that demands creative and unique solutions to workplace problems.

Despite popular belief that creativity is a personality trait, creativity can actually be broken down into a very systematic process of identifying problems, researching information and solutions, generating ideas from that data, creating a solution, and promoting and championing your ideas/solutions. The key is letting information be the source of your ideas and solutions. Here are some steps you can take to more creatively address your workplace issues, as prescribed by key players in creative thinking and innovation workplace research (Zhang & Barton, 2010; Perry-Smith, 2006; Reiter-Palmon & Illies, 2004; Tierney, Farmer, & Graen, 1999; Zhou & George, 2003):

Step 1: Identify problems

  • understand the nature of the workplace problem
  • think about the problem from multiple perspectives – employee, managers, executives, and any other stakeholders
  • decompose a challenging problem/assignment into parts to obtain greater understanding

Step 2: Research information

  • consult a wide variety of information
  • search for information from multiple sources
  • retain amounts of detailed information for future use

Step 3: Generate ideas

  • consider diverse sources of information in generating new ideas
  • look for connections with solutions used in seeming diverse areas
  • generate a significant number of alternatives to the same problem before choosing the final solution
  • devise potential solutions that move away from established ways of doing things
  • spend considerable time shifting through information that helps to generate new ideas

Step 4: Create a solution

  • find solutions to complex problems
  • create new procedures for work tasks
  • improve existing processes or products
  • suggest new ways to increase quality
  • search out new technologies, processes, techniques, and/or product ideas

Step 5: Promote and champion ideas

  • develop plans and schedules for the implementation of new ideas
  • obtain support for your ideas from stakeholders with data and information and research
  • champion your ideas to fruition

This same process can also be used with your individual employees, however, keep in mind that employee creativity is also influenced by the degree to which your managers and leaders empower employees and creative thinking (Zhang & Barton, 2010). To support the creative process, managers should:

  • encourage and emphasize or reinforce creativity by employees
  • respect employees’ ability to function creatively
  • allow employees to try to solve the same problems in different ways
  • expect employees to deal with problems in different ways
  • reward employees who are creative in doing their job
  • publicly recognizes employees who are creative.

Let ERC’s research and information be the guide and tools you consult in thinking more creatively about your workplace issues. Consult our ideas, insights, information, education, and support available to you through your membership:

  • NorthCoast 99: Becoming involved in ERC’s NorthCoast 99 program is a way to gain new and creative insights into many workplace issues and benchmark your organization’s practices. To participate in this year’s application process, please register at Or, for information and research on unique ideas to improve your workplace, please click here.
  • HR Help Desk (members only): Consult with an HR professional and obtain sample policies, programs, forms, compensation data, benchmark information, and more on any HR topic or workplace issue. We’ll research any HR issue or problem you have and provide you with credible and reliable information. Contact
  • HR Consulting: Sometimes you may find yourself having a great idea or solution to a problem, but not the expertise to accomplish it. For expert guidance and project assistance on many HR issues such as performance management, employee engagement, employee development, compensation, workforce/succession planning, and more please contact for more information on how ERC can help you.
  • Professional development: Sometimes we need more training, education, or skill in the field of HR to address a problem accurately and appropriately. For new knowledge on HR topics such as compensation and benefits, orientation and performance management, staffing and recruitment, and communication, enroll in HR University.
  • Surveys: Use ERC’s survey information to benchmark your organization’s practices on a variety of workplace and HR topics. For survey information please visit:


  • Ahearne, M., Mathieu, J., & Rapp, A. (2005). To empower or not to empower your sales force? An empirical examination of the influence of leadership empowerment behavior on customer satisfaction and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology.
  • Perry-Smith, J. E. (2006) Social yet creative: The role of social relationships in facilitating individual creativity. Academy of Management Journal.
  • Reiter-Palmon, R., & Illies, J. J. (2004). Leadership and creativity: Understanding leadership from a creative problem solving perspective. Leadership Quarterly.
  • Tierney, P., Farmer, S. M., & Graen, G. B. (1999). An examination of leadership and employee creativity: The relevance of traits and relationships. Personnel Psychology.
  • Zhang, X. & Barton K. (2010). Linking empowering leadership and employee creativity. Academy of Management Journal.
  • Zhou, J., & George, J. M. (2003). Awakening employee creativity: The role of leader emotional intelligence. Leadership Quarterly.
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One Response to Thinking Creatively About Workplace Issues

  1. Pingback: Thinking Creatively About Workplace Issues – Sussex-Warren HRMA Blog

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