• Innovation in business is more crucial than ever, yet many companies unknowingly place roadblocks in the way of employees’ creativity
  • Workplaces may lack engagement, purpose, weak ties, psychological safety, creative space, and professional development opportunities
  • By improving in these areas, companies can harness employee creativity which leads to faster and better innovation


In a constantly shifting future, change needs to happen quicker than ever and companies need to remain agile to keep up. A McKinsey study in June 2020 revealed that 90% of executives believe Covid-19 will fundamentally change the way they do business and over 75% of them agree there is plenty of room for growth. But in the same study, only 21% of these executives said they have the commitment and resources to make change happen.

Dale Carnegie research backs that up. In our survey of more than 6,500 employees across 21 countries, 82% of respondents said they have creative people on their team. But 3 in 10 employees disagreed that it was easy to get support for their new ideas.

Adobe found that over half their survey participants said, “people are increasingly being expected to think more creatively.” But without the proper environment and support, this creativity goes nowhere. Clearly, there are some roadblocks standing in the way of companies fully harnessing creativity from their workers.


Roadblock #1 – Lack of Employee Engagement

Dale Carnegie has found that making employees feel valued, confident, and empowered can increase employee engagement at work. Yet, in our creativity survey, a mere 25% strongly agreed they are empowered to make decisions at work, only 40% strongly agreed they are confident in their skills, and just 27% strongly agree their managers make them feel valued at work. For employees to be engaged, companies must focus on these aspects.

To improve employee engagement, leaders can…

  • Thank employees for all ideas and contributions, whether they are pursued or not, to show the value in their speaking up.
  • Encourage confidence by helping workers to grow their skill sets.
  • Empower employees to pursue creative ideas by supplying the time and capital to get the project started.

Roadblock #2 – Lack of Purpose

A lack of purpose goes hand in hand with a lack of engagement.

Purpose is what sparks intrinsic motivation, which is what drives engagement and leads to creativity. A worker who is motivated internally by a company mission or values is one who will put in more effort. This includes going above and beyond when it comes to generating creative solutions. In a Microsoft survey, employees who felt more passionate about work were 1.4 times more likely to report feeling connected to their team and manager. Passion comes from aligning work with a strong organizational purpose.

To manage a lack of employee purpose, leaders can…

  • Craft a strong company mission statement to use as a touchstone for business decisions.
  • Be constantly connecting an individual’s work to this mission statement, showing them how they are helping the company toward its goals.
  • Embrace the organizational purpose and live out the company values in their own work.

Roadblock #3 – Lack of Weak Ties

As part of the idea journey, employees come up with novel ideas which are inspired by a collection of “weak ties.” Weak ties are those relationships at the periphery of a social network. In an office, this may involve acquaintanceship with employees across teams or in entirely different departments. These weak ties are critical for idea generation. Yet, the pandemic has shrunk our social circles and nearly 3 in 10 employees realize they are speaking to fewer people on a regular basis.

To promote weak ties, leaders can…

  • Connect diverse teams through in-person, virtual, or hybrid events and meetings.
  • Encourage and foster interaction between different departments or branches of the company.

Roadblock #4 – Lack of Psychological Safety

It’s important to sustain diversity of thought and experience among your teams, but with differing points of view can come conflict. This is where psychological safety comes in. Teams with high psychological safety perform better. Workers are more apt to share their creative ideas without fear and it allows teams to give constructive criticism and navigate conflict without straining personal relationships.

To improve psychological safety, leaders can…

  • Make spaces inclusive by recognizing that everyone has something to bring to the table.
  • Become skilled at creating this environment by first building trusting relationships with employees.
  • Encourage brave spaces which can pave the way to sustained psychological safety within a diverse team.

Roadblock #5 – Lack of Creative Space

Really, the lack of creative space comes down to overwhelm with daily tasks. And the pandemic and remote working have only accelerated employee burnout. Between February 2020 and February 2021, Microsoft noted that the average online meeting was extended by ten minutes, messaging and chats increased by 45%, and there were 40.6 billion more emails sent in February 2021 as compared to the same month the prior year. When workers are constantly faced with urgent problems and extra work, there is no time or space for any creative thinking.

To create creative space, leaders can…

  • Check in with employees on a deeper level and address them as a whole person, not just the part of them that shows up to work.
  • Ensure each employee has enough time for their tasks and ask about workload before you assign them new projects.
  • Respect employee time at home and don’t email or message outside of work hours.

Roadblock #6 – Lack of Professional Development

Creative ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They are built on the ideas and innovations of others. To expand creativity, it’s important that employees have professional development opportunities to improve their skills and abilities. A report from PwC and the World Economic Forum estimates $6.5 trillion in global GDP growth and 5.3 million new jobs could be seen by 2030 if countries upskill their workers.

To encourage professional development, leaders can…

  • Provide the time and means for employees and managers to participate in professional development courses or trainings.
  • Cross-train employees within the company to help support various positions.

The path to innovation is filled with various pitfalls and roadblocks.  Don’t let these 6 roadblocks stop you from fostering a culture of creativity and innovation.  Learn more about how creativity can impact your organization’s ability to innovate by reading Dale Carnegie’s Creativity is Social white paper.