Stress kills creativity

“I am willing to get involved in topics that interest me” stated almost 90% of the respondents to UP’N’CHANGE‘s Skill-Check. What prevents this eagerness from being followed by action? Why is it so difficult to get started?

With one foot on the emergency brake

The creative power of 63% of the respondents is slowed down by a rather or extremely high stress level. This means that stress at work kills creative power. Too little focus on the task (42%), a lack of resources (such as time for 40%) and external conditions that prevent creativity (37%) are also obstacles. So, it’s not a lack of willingness or ideas, but a lack of suitable nurturing grounds for developing and implementing ideas, as our survey shows.

This is also in line with the findings of UP’N’CHANGE’s digiTool InnoSparker: The lack of resources is the biggest obstacle in organizations to unleashing creativity and fostering potential innovation.

Exacerbated by low engagement-levels

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report 2023, the number of fully engaged employees in Europe is astonishingly low at 13% (vs. 23% globally). 72% (vs. 59% globally) do the bare minimum. Not to mention the rest who have already quit silently. Gallup’s estimate is that low engagement causes enormous financial damage to the global economy.

Low engagement, in turn, leads to higher stress levels. In the Gallup survey, 40% of respondents in Europe say they experienced increased stress the day before. This is not surprising when you think of the organizations in Europe as a boat, with 13% of the crew rowing to the finish line with full vigor, 72% lifting the oars with only the slightest effort, and 15% not rowing at all or even rowing in the opposite direction. How effectively will you get anywhere? And how much joy does one get out of it?

The turning point is leadership

Should we be satisfied with this? What regrets will we have if we continue and work this way? How can we make better use of existing potential? And what can management actively do to build resilience, push engagement and create an environment where creativity can flourish?

It’s about stopping complaining, blaming and resigning, and rather taking responsibility, becoming capable of action and reacting. This concerns all of us. For managers, it means taking an interest in the workforce and showing leadership.

Interest and curiosity as first steps

How can this be done? How does one become active?

The step that precedes action is interest. It shows itself when perceiving impulses, having conversations, making contact and perceiving meaning in the work. This requires leaders who are interested in others, even if they disagree, who are capable of empathy when people act differently, and who are willing to communicate and engage in dialogue. A power center that revolves only around itself loses the environment, mutates into an ivory tower and is partly responsible if engagement declines.

Those who lead successfully in the long term manage to strike a healthy balance between their own interests and those of others, to demonstrate resilience and emotional competence, and to be open to new ideas, even when stress levels are high.

Unfortunately, however, the opposite is often the case: If I have too much stress at work, I lose the necessary composure and patience to engage with others, to listen to other opinions, to work out solutions together. However, this is necessary to actively shape the future.

It’s a process and not a single measure

It would be wrong to believe that leadership, a supportive corporate culture and committed people can be realized quickly. These issues require patience, composure, courage, consistency, focus, perseverance, resources, personal development, and a willingness to learn.

The requirements are, as already mentioned, to be interested and show curiosity. And progress is step by step, as fast as possible and as slow as necessary.

What is your first step? How do you manage to become (more) capable of change?

What does your skills traffic light look like in terms of creative power?

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UP’N’CHANGE. Change to Success.