Creativity is the lifeblood of any startup, especially since at the beginning you’re not running on much more than passion and drive. Creativity is not something that is hit or miss, instead it’s fostered through a process, the specifics depend on the needs of your company and team. One strong example of the power of the creative process is Pixar. For the last 20 years, they have shown themself incapable of producing a flop. With hits like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, they are showing no signs of hitting a creative funk.
The secret to their success is what they call a brain trust. At first it happened organically. John Lassseter, co founder of Pixar, surrounded himself with four people who were as passionate about film and as driven as he was. Together they would have fervent conversations about film. Management at Pixar has studied this original group and applied it over and over again, contributing to their accomplishments in the past two decades.
Just like Pixar, you too can fine tune your creative process for optimal output.
Same Environment. Too much time spent in the same place gets drab. Sometimes all that is needed is a new environment to imbue a creative spark. Crowdsource your office for ideas of new places to work. Or have the option for your team to work remotely a number of days during the week. The key is flexibility. You want your employees to feel good about where they work, instead of feeling that they HAVE to work in a specific place all day every day.
Too Many Meetings. Does anyone really like meetings? They are the ultimate time suck and drain your team’s energy and moral. The point is not to eliminate meetings. Face-to-face interaction is valuable. But don’t make it the default way you share information. There’s instant messaging (HipChat), Yammer (for company news), etc. When you do need to meet face-to-face, have certain guidelines in place to minimize distraction and maximize efficiency. Go old school and eliminate smartphones, laptops and tablets and limit each meeting to 15 minutes.
Not Catering to Different Working Styles. Open offices are all the rage. They are championed for fostering collaboration and a free-thinking work environment. But sometimes they are productivity killers. And they can be hell for introverted workers. It’s important to have a diverse work space. Have a quiet space, collaboration space, meeting space, etc, to fit the varying needs of your employees. Some offices even have a nap room and a phone booth. The point is that there is no size fits all. Unless all your employees are robots, each employee has different needs when it comes to being productive.
The Lights. Artificial lights make us sleepy and stressed over time. Natural sunlight is where it’s at. Use the summer months to soak up as much as possible (this past winter was brutal, after all).
Uptight Atmosphere. Don’t adhere to the belief that duress breeds the best innovations. Creativity cannot thrive in a draconian environment. So lighten up. You don’t have that office keg for nothing. There’s a reason why drunkenness is a valuable part of the creative process. But a relaxed environment will do if you don’t want happy hour to last all day.
Little to No Vacation Time. Vacation time just reminds people that a company runs every aspect of their life (hopefully your company doesn’t) and that they never have time to travel the way they want. That’s why so many startups are opting for unlimited vacation time. It’s called the Pygmalion Effect: the more you trust someone, the more they will fulfill that trust. No vacation time decreases health, creativity and performance. But when people are put in charge of their vacations, they are more likely to take time off with as minimum effect to performance as possible.
Your Workspace Is A Winter Wonderland. Warmer temperatures encourage creativity. Research suggests that the sweet spot is somewhere between 71 to 77 degrees. So turn the heat up in the office, just not too much or else work time will become nap time.
You Micromanage. Google “Micromanaging” and the words “bullying,” “illegal,” and “harassment” come up. No one likes a boss that micromanages. Micromanagement is anxiety-inducing, making your employees feel like any little mistake will be reprimanded with an iron fist. So unless you’re modeling your start-up after a fascist nation, give your team a break by providing some breathing room.
You Don’t Encourage Risk-taking. The common thread tin Pixar’s creative process is that they encourage risk-taking. Innovation thrives in an environment that encourages risk. That crazy idea that just might change the company in a big way? No employee is going to even dare suggest it unless they feel like risk is valued in the work culture.
No Perks for Innovation. Companies still use rewards because they work. So instead of rewarding employees for hitting random sales numbers, provide incentives for innovation..
What are some ways your startup encourages creativity? Let us know in the comments.
Photo Credit: LeadingWomenUK