Spark up your creativity: how and where can a company step in to help?


Whether we like it or not, creativity can’t be scheduled in our calendars. Even when everything seems to be fine and dandy, there’s something that holds us back from being creative. The people behind a company are exactly that: people. We all have had our bad days, or we had to deal with a lack of motivation or inspiration. And what can we do in those days? Well, here are some ways in which you (and your company) can help spark up your creativity.


6 mins read

spark up creativity

We are creatures of habit, there’s no doubt about that. And while routines can be truly beneficial for our mental health, they can be damaging to our creativity. 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a brainstorming session or a workshop that lasted for hours, but your “idea” bag was the emptiest it has ever been. Raise your other hand if you’ve ever encountered an issue on a task, but you found the solution when you were doing a random thing, not actively thinking about it.

Now, how can we spark up our creativity, and where do a company’s events and activities fit into the plan?

Well, let’s divide the plan into two separate (but complementary) parts. The first part represents the actions that could help spark up your creativity and problem-solving skills. The second will focus more on how team activities or events could help that as well, aside from strengthening the bond between you and your colleagues. 

What can one do to be creative and solve problems?

These skills are coming from within. While we may feel like we’re not creative enough, it might be that we’re too overwhelmed or overstimulated. This makes it harder to focus and stay relaxed. Good ideas or solutions never come by having your creative engine smoking.  So, here are some actions that can help you relax, as well as spark your creativity without much effort.

spark your creativity: coffee walks

Put your shoes on and go for a little walk

You don’t have to go into the woods to get your steps in and find your creative idea. It can be just walking around the block or to your favorite coffee shop to grab a nice cup of espresso. While social media can idealize and make the association that walks = big parks or a forest, you don’t need that. The whole idea is for you not to be sitting in front of your laptop and wondering why you can’t think of anything. 

If you have a treadmill, that’s also fine. Just jump on it and walk for 15 minutes, anything to get your legs moving. A study from 2014, in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, actually proves it! While it’s recommended that you do regular exercise, this might not always be everyone’s jam, and neither is a quick fix. But the study found that just a simple walk can temporarily improve certain types of thinking. So, what you’re waiting for?

spark your creativity: meditation

Try out meditation

Yes, yes, we know. You already had that as a New Year’s resolution, but „didn’t have the time for it”.

We’re not talking about more than 5 minutes of quiet time. Five minutes in which you’re just focusing on your breath! Meditation is quite an effective tool to spark up your creativity. 

Just stand up from your desk, find a nice and cozy spot (but don’t lie down! It’s not nap time!), make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and just focus on your breath. 

Yes, that’s it. While you could have a lot of thoughts going out at the same time, that’s fine. Just imagine they’re passing by and go back to what you were doing. Meditation will help calm your mind and be more grounded. Overwhelm is the enemy of a creative mind, so it’s best to relax and calm down before starting any creative work.

spark your creativity: power naps

Lunchtime naps? We’re in!

Having a power snooze during a lunch break can do wonders. Some of our colleagues are fans of this tip. You’ll often time find some of our colleagues trying to catch a few Zzz’s for 20 minutes to freshen up during lunch break. 

At first, you might wake up a bit groggy, but do not go back to sleep!! Just get up, pour some coffee, have 5 minutes to refresh, and start your creative process. You’ll see that your mind will start working with you, and not against you! 

Of course, if it’s the end of the day, and you’ve been struggling to solve an issue from 9 am, it’s best to just log off, go to sleep and wake up early in the morning with a new perspective. Sleep can be your creativity’s closest friend!

Give yourself a small reward

Promise yourself some goodies for creative works. But be careful, as they can backfire and reduce motivation (also known as the overjustification effect). Sometimes, offering rewards for creative thinking might spiral into a decrease in motivation and stifling creativity and motivation.

However, a study from 2012 proves that with rewards that are explicitly offered for producing creative work, creativity will increase. But still, be careful with this idea, notice how you feel, and if you see your creativity decreasing, it’s best to stop. 

Ok, ok, but where can a company step in?

Aside from doing the work yourself and finding out what is your creative process, a company (more specifically, the people behind a company) can step in and facilitate this struggle you might have. Well, let’s take the first example: the brainstorming process (or how to start up your creative engine!).

spark your creativity: brainstorming ice breakers

Brainstorming: it takes only 15 minutes to start up your creative engine

While we know the basic definition of brainstorming and what it looks like (even if it’s something we remember from the TV show Mad Men or how we’ve been taught by another colleague). The romanticized version of it is that a group of people gather around a table and start spilling crazy creative ideas, while someone notes and combines them all into an award-worthy strategy. 

Well, I don’t want to disappoint you, but that’s not always the case. Each person attending a brainstorming session has their own life outside the office, and sometimes their mind may be all over the place, unable to focus on that one award-winning idea. So, a little trick we incorporated into our sessions, just so everyone could get in the right mindset, was to have the first 15 minutes playing a few games that will spark up our creativity and get us talking. We call it: the icebreaker.

In the icebreaker, we will usually either show 3 photos that are most dear to us or start explaining why are those photos special to us. On other occasions, we try to list 10 things we have in common (and yes, “we all have eyes” it’s acceptable). We play two truths and a lie, try the association game, and many more. 

I can’t stress the importance of an icebreaker before a brainstorming session enough. For just 15 minutes, every person is focused on the same thing, getting into the same mindset while having a bit of fun before searching for great ideas.

spark your creativity: workshops

Bonding events: company organized events that strengthen our bond and even help us find a solution

Ever since the pandemic, there was no secret that we used to do events for our colleagues, online during the lockdown, offline when things got safe, and now hybrid since we also have remote colleagues. 

Each month we organize something to have our colleagues get together and play games, discuss, work together, or compete against each other (some of us are airsoft lovers!). But the one we’ve been consistent with throughout the years was our Pink Day!  

Formerly known as Pink Friday (but lately, we haven’t held them on Fridays), it’s a day we take for ourselves and our learning. Throughout the whole day our colleagues are holding presentations on what they’ve learned recently, a solution they’ve found for a problem, having a workshop to further sharpen our problem-solving skills, or just learning to work better together. The last time we played with LEGOs and honestly, workshop or not, it brought back so many fun memories! 

Usually thanks to these workshops and presentations, aside from learning new things or sharpening a skill, we get to ask questions, and we sometimes debate something which can ultimately change our way of working. Moreover, Pink Days are breaking the routine we got so used to. Instead of joining a daily meeting, a team call, a debriefing and doing deep work, answering phone calls, and replying to emails, we get to grab a coffee, enjoy it on a beanbag and discuss new subjects and share opinions with our peers.

spark creativity: coffee breaks

The coffee breaks and water cooler chats: they do have their magic!

You’ve seen in TV shows or in several comedic skits where two co-workers are chatting and the “big scary boss” steps in, babbles about how they’ve been there for 5 minutes already, and sends them back to their desks to work. Well, let me tell you: ideally, that’s the only where this type of boss should ever exist, to be honest. 

At Grapefruit, we trust everyone to do their job, and when they’re at the water cooler or in the office garden and so on, we know they need that break or just to talk. By not having a timer set above their heads, we’ve witnessed them finding a solution to a problem by just talking with another colleague. Where do they start the conversation? Weather. Where did it end? Realizing where was the bug, they’ve been searching for the past 15 minutes! 

Sometimes people just require a 5-minute break to free their minds and solve an issue, and that’s completely fine — we are humans! That’s why we know that coffee breaks and water cooler chats are beneficial for one’s creativity. 

And most of all, one of our principles is People, not jobs. We see Mircea, not a Front End Developer, we see Anca, not our COO, we see Ovidiu, not a Designer. Yes, those are their job titles, but at their core, they’re human. They may have days when their creativity or problem-solving skills are at a low, there may be days when they need a small nudge (not literally!) to push their limits and overcome the challenges they’re facing. 

spark creativity: game nights

Last, but not least, encouraging hanging out after working hours

Being a close-knit team makes the work days more fun and go by faster. It’s ideal for a team to get to hang out and learn more about each other, making a connection between them. 

One of the main things Luminita appreciated at Grapefruit was the fact that when she came to visit our office, we all wanted to hang out and grab a drink, or go for a walk with her. This way she got to know each one of us, feel included, associate a conversation with that Slack image, and be more relaxed when attending meetings. 

Of course, in an ideal world, every team member would be best friends with each other and all will be delightful, but we’re not living in that world. What happens, however, is that even if there’s nothing in common between two co-workers, they end up being more open to helping one another. Not to mention the tranquility that comes with finally knowing the person you’re working with, and becoming more comfortable debating, brainstorming, or speaking up in meetings without any nervousness. 

You don’t necessarily have to have everyone as your “work bestie”, but just knowing them outside the office hours can make meetings more relaxing and let the creativity flow without having it restricted by anxiety. 

While you are in charge of finding out what your creative process is, it doesn’t mean that your employer can’t make things easier for you and other colleagues that might struggle with the same issue. There are simple, yet effective ways to help employees break their routine without having to incorporate tremendous changes. What helps, however, is for employees to know that they’re understood, trusted, and appreciated by the company they’re working for.

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