As you’ve heard many times before, your employees are your most valuable resource.  But are you getting the most out of them? It’s important to tap into all of your resources… and your employees have thoughts and great ideas just like you. Some of the biggest breakthroughs that my clients have experienced have started with an idea that an employee had. If your employees are not creatively engaged with your operation, you may be missing out on a million-dollar idea.  Below are some ways to stimulate employee creativity:

Hold dedicated brainstorming sessions. Are you facing a challenge that’s got you stuck? Bring your entire staff into your meeting room, explain the situation, and ask for their ideas. One of them may come up with the perfect solution… or they may get you thinking in a new direction and help you come up with the answer. Even if you’re not facing a specific challenge, it’s a good idea to hold brainstorming sessions every couple of months with a general goal of improving your operations. Employees tend to see things differently than their boss, and may have a great suggestion that never occurred to you.

Keep your office environment exciting.  Avoid the generic row of cubicles at all costs. If your employees are in a boring, uniform environment, they are likely going to conform to their setting and turn off their creativity. Look into varied lighting options, take advantage of window space, and consider playing music over your speaker system. Simply introducing plants into a workspace can make it much more personable. Rearranging your furniture every couple of months is a great way to keep things interesting, and it will keep your employees from falling into a rut.

Devote time to pet projects. Many organizations, including 3M and Google, encourage or require employees to spend time working on “pet projects.”  Post-it notes came about through a 3M engineer’s quest for a better bookmark, and many of Google’s innovations have been inspired by an employee’s idea. Your business may never come up with an idea as revolutionary as Google or the Post-it note, but an employee pet project may have a huge impact on your business.

As a business owner, part of your job is making the most of your assets and that includes your employees. Your secretary may spend most of the day answering phones, but that doesn’t mean he or she isn’t capable of an idea that will improve your business model. Make sure that you provide a stimulating environment and give your employees plenty of opportunities to think creatively—there’s no telling how important revolutionary of their ideas may be.