Sheridan’s Dr. Ginger Grant on why creativity is becoming a big part of business

Sheridan College professor Ginger Grant says Mississauga companies can compete more effectively by using creativity and technology to change traditional work methods, leading to growth and prosperity.

“You can be Kodak,” Grant said Thursday, referring to the iconic U.S. film and camera giant which went bankrupt after failing to adapt in recent years to the industry trend towards digital photography.

“Survival is optional.”

Grant described creativity in business and in the workplace as thinking differently, being able to handle “wicked problems” where there is no easy solution and “shit-disturbing.”

“You’re looking at every policy and procedure you have and going ‘Why?’” she said, citing the common practice of working 9-5 causing high amounts of gridlock in the Greater Toronto Area.

Since not everyone is a morning person, Grant proposed companies allow for flexible working hours. “Why not let them when their minds are most active?” she said.

Employees should determine or at least have a say in the process of their output. “Get out of the way of your own people,” Grant said, citing her experience running a competitive intelligence department where some of the staff worked from home overnight. “If that puts you in a frame where you can think differently, better, faster, however, then please god, stay at home and wear bunny slippers.”

Creativity can simply be a company taking the resources they already have and using them more effectively when it comes to areas like hiring or office culture.

Grant also recommended companies invest in educational training, provide on-site daycare service and encourage employees to carpool. By providing these services staff are more likely to be happier and functioning at their peak, which makes them more productive.

“That’s not hard, but it’s different,” she said, citing the common fear doing so would result in chaos is because of human nature.

However, Grant said that Canada is currently falling in international rankings when it comes to competitiveness and change is now absolutely necessary. “Your employees don’t really like you, it’s kind of hard to build a cult,” she said, citing the tribal, cult-like companies of Whole Foods, Apple and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.

Companies can avoid hiring expensive consultants and simply ask what your employees want. “What would make your staff happy?” Grant said. “And then do it.”

Key questions companies should ask their staff:

  1. What are you most passionate about?
  2. What do you want to do more of?
  3. What are you good at?
  4. What are the resources you need to do more of the stuff you love?

Grant said allowing staff to do more of the work they love would make them more productive. “And then the company will work better and we’ll all get raises,” she said.

Companies getting it right:

Indian multinational company Tata Group
Invests 4 per cent of gross profit margins into employees

Whole Foods’ Mississauga location

The niche, high-end grocery store gives artistic freedom to its staff, resulting in employee satisfaction, higher productivity and plenty of customers

Vancouver’s Vision Financial credit union

The company built spare classrooms out of boardrooms, asked local universities to help educate employees and ended up partnering with University of Phoenix. “For a lot of people education would be a huge benefit,” Grant said. “All you have to do is take the rules and regulations off that boardrooms can only be used for C-suite executives. You’ve got all the equipment already.”

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