UK businesses are failing to support a culture of innovation despite employees believing that their companies would benefit from fresh ideas and innovative ways of working, new research shows.
A study of 1,000 workplaces conducted by RADA in Business (the commercial subsidiary of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art which provides communication skills training for corporate individuals) finds 81 per cent of workplaces have failed to create a culture that encourages new ideas and experimentation, according to their staff.
Many employees feel that businesses are suffering as a result, with just less than a quarter (24 per cent) saying that their workplace is desperately in need of new ideas and fresh thinking to overcome current problems.
The report finds a number of combined factors that are suppressing new ideas and original thinking.
One in five employees (21 per cent) say that they didn’t believe anyone wanted to hear their ideas. A similar number (18 per cent) also say that even when they put their ideas forward, they were rarely implemented.
As many as 16 per cent of workers said that any new idea would actually be treated with suspicion and criticism, while 15 per cent of people believed their business leaders actively discouraged innovation.
In response to this ‘innovation gap’, RADA in Business has been working with leading UK companies to transfer dramatic techniques, such as play and improvisation, from a theatrical setting to a business environment.
Kevin Chapman, director of RADA in Business, says, ‘It’s concerning to see how many people feel that creativity and innovation aren’t encouraged in their role – especially when there are simple techniques available to help companies to support and tap into the power of imagination for solving problems or developing new ways of working as a team.
‘In the same way that a theatre director works with their cast of actors to experiment with different ways to tell a story, business leaders can benefit from improvising with their teams, which is a key element to unlocking greater creativity.
‘Rather than promoting individualism and ‘showing off’, improvisation is a surprisingly effective tool to create better team bonds and understanding.
‘We encourage businesses to give space to play with new ideas without being overly critical. Adopting an attitude of enthusiastic curiosity towards every idea that you come up with defies your critical voice and may lead the way to new innovations.’
The research shows government and local government workplaces are the settings where people find it hardest to think creatively (21 per cent). Those working in IT (29 per cent) and financial services (26 per cent) find it hardest to make their voices heard, with companies often dominated by a few ‘loud voices’.
The workers who feel most able to think creatively are those working in teaching and professional trades (builders, plumbers etc.), who are four times less likely to struggle with innovation than those in governmental jobs.