6 office activities that encourage innovation

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Innovation at work can come in many forms. It can mean streamlining a process, bringing forth new ideas in meetings or tackling common business problems from a new angle.

But innovation doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some people may struggle to come up with out-of-the-box ideas, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. They just might need a little nudge to feel more inspired.

There are many ways to nurture a culture that fosters innovation, such as playful children’s games to activities that spark creativity. These six ideas can make for a more collaborative work environment to get the creative thoughts going. 

1. Create a community game room or corner

When employees at LEGO®’s UK headquarters need a quick break, there are always toys nearby. LEGO®s are dispersed throughout the office, providing an outlet to keep minds and hands active. Incorporate this idea into your own office by transforming a quiet corner area or an unused room into a break space that encourages play. 

Select a variety of games that can be played one-on-one or in small groups. A jigsaw puzzle is an ideal addition because it’s quiet and easy to start and stop at any time. Other ideas for your game room include LEGO®s or favourite childhood games. Staples's Breakroom Solutions keep these break-out areas fully stocked with all of the snacks and drinks to fuel workers. 

Of course, employees are at work to work. So steer clear of games that require lengthy time commitments or may become too noisy, such as board games. Choose games that can be played in short, focused bursts so employees can maximize their playtime—and return to work refreshed.

For more games that inspire innovation, check out our article on how children's games can be adapted for the office and inspire workers. 

2. Start a friendly inter-office competition

Mix up the daily routine with a friendly workplace competition every quarter. Bring employees from different departments together to compete, collaborate and get creative.

Host office trivia, and use it as an opportunity for the entire office to get to know each other better. Get every employee to submit five fun facts about themselves and turn those facts into trivia questions.

People love to show off their favourite tried-and-true food dishes, so make it a competition. Organise a food-themed potluck contest. This could include football-themed snacks during the World Cup or sweet treats around the holidays. Have everyone vote and award prizes to the cooks who prepared the most-loved dishes.

Make sure your office kitchen is fully stocked with everything you need for employees to enjoy each other's culinary innovations with Staples's Food Solutions.  

3. Get active with in-office yoga

It’s challenging to come up with new ideas when you’re burned out, stressed or tired. Yoga is the perfect antidote. The low-impact activity helps re-energize people’s bodies and minds. And it’s easily adaptable for almost any environment. You just need open floor space, a yoga teacher (or even a DVD will do) and mats.

You also need willing participants! To encourage more people to join, be sure to design a class targeted for beginners. Dim the lights and get into the zone for 15-30 minutes. Everyone will feel more focused afterwards.

4. Create a collaborative art project

Creating an art project as a group allows everyone to bring forth their creativity and add their own personal flourishes. This can be as low-tech as printing out a black-and-white mural to hang on an empty wall. Place coloured pencils and markers closeby to encourage people to colour in the mural or draw their own illustrations.

If the mural is a hit, you might consider hiring an art teacher to come lead a class for whole office. From painting parties to drawing classes, there are many opportunities to inspire your employees to unleash their inner artist and be more creative at work.

5. Turn employees into teachers

Every employee, no matter what their level or role, has unique knowledge and skills. Encouraging knowledge sharing across your organization helps to spark new connections and pathways between teammates, leading to company-wide innovations.

Try a lunch-and-learn format. Ask employees to give short presentations to their colleagues about their jobs. It’s especially interesting if they share a surprising or unknown aspect of their work. Topics could include everything from Excel wizardry to the behind-the-scenes work of the office manager.

People could also teach a skill or talent completely unrelated to work, such as how to juggle or cook eggs perfectly. You may be surprised to discover the hidden talents of some of your colleagues!

6. Go on a cultural field trip

For a change of scenery and to gain new perspectives, plan a cultural field trip with your team. Attend an art museum, concert, or play. 

Begin by polling the office about what people like, then find a cultural experience that best aligns with their interests. While you want to encourage people to step outside their comfort zone, something that’s too polarising might not be as effective.

Afterwards, regroup to share your thoughts and impressions about the experience. Pose a few questions to spark conversation. People may have different reactions and thoughts about the same experience. Learning others’ perspectives will help people learn to be open about differing ideas—a critical piece of the innovation puzzle. Plus, having a shared outside-of-work experience will create more connection between employees.

Every workplace innovation isn’t a light bulb idea. Often, innovation stems from connecting seemingly unrelated experiences, collaboration between colleagues who normally don’t work together, or even just getting outside of your own head. Creating a nurturing environment is the first step towards encouraging your employees to push forth innovation in their work.

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