A few days ago, I started a series on innovative power — one of the fruits of Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business. How do we get creative, divergent and provocative? How do we forsake our day-to-day fire extinguishing duties (and we all have them) and force ourselves to get physically out of our office buildings, companies, towns, states or countries? Too many companies are routinely stuck in extinguishing the daily fires of their business responsibilities such as:
– Customer claims
– Quality issues
– Product development
– Reporting and having to come up with “news” for the Corporate Office
– Sales & Sales Prospecting
Any one of us could easily yawn while reading those bullet points. But beware, so do our co-workers and employees, if these represent the bulk of their daily to-do-lists! I absolutely admire the innovative Google spirit of letting employees mix up their worksheet by setting their own “20-Percent Time.” Customer Experience (CX) can only be achieved if companies first learn to establish Employee Experience (EX), which has long been the case at Google. Google receives more than two million CV’s every year; the irrefutable evidence that Employee Experience has long been one of the ways Google retains attractive, creative and innovative talents.
Without any further ado here are five more points on how to foster creativity:
1. Schedule, sponsor and organize FUN or CRAZINESS within your business premises.
“When fun is a regular part of work, employees get to know each other as real people,” Paul Spiegelman, CEO of Beryl Companies, told Inc. To that end, Spiegelman created a ‘Department of Great People and Fun’ and instituted ‘Pajama’ day and ‘Dress like the 70s’ day. “While these ideas are not practical for every work environment, the key is to do something fun, no matter how small, on a regular basis,” The key here is to break company silos and barriers! A bit like in Germany, when neighbors, who traditionally rarely talk to each other suddenly get together for a pint of beer or more during the famous Cologne Carnival Festivities and this … until the wee hours of the night! Eric Ryan, founder of Method, a soap and cleaning products company in San Francisco, thinks adding some “weirdness” to your corporate culture inspires employees to accomplish a lot. In the past, Ryan hasn’t hesitated to dress up as a chipmunk, blast Eye of the Tiger in the elevator, or host flash mob dance parties at his offices. “It reminds everybody that, ‘Yeah, I’m working somewhere really special’.”
2. Create “nap rooms” and grant your employees some rest.
I was once asked during an interview how would I proceed after an intercontinental flight, if I would directly come back to my office and work? My answer was: “I’d rather sleep in a bed than in my office: it is much more comfortable and at least I am getting something done properly”! Google is again a trendsetter when it comes to employee dedication and engagement making sure that their workers can “power nap” whenever they feel like an urgent need to close their eyes: and we all know that power nap can help relieving stress and thus unleash creative power. “Zephrin Lasker, CEO of a Pontiflex, a 60-person mobile app ad shop in Brooklyn, converted a room of computer servers into a napping retreat. ‘I’m a huge believer in napping,’ Lasker tells Inc.com. ‘It helps people recharge, and personally, it helps me think more creatively’.”
3. Openly encourage and promote diversity rather than conformity.
At Zappos not only is weirdness encouraged, but it is also integral part of its company core values: “Create Fun And A Little Weirdness”. At first, employees will be careful and suspicious particularly if a traditional hierarchical structure suddenly endeavors to humanize its practices, but management and leaders have to first break the ice and lead the way! Culture is the fundamental catalyst that will open the doors to employee reciprocity. Corporate Culture will most likely generate employee engagement and employee initiative, which in turn will trigger creativity and innovation. Remember to be a little crazy and weird “À La Zappos” so to say! It will automatically break down some communication barriers, encourage creative thinking, unleash motivation and most probably reduce employee turnover.
4. Find out what your employees are passionate about.
On one of his websites, trainer and guru Ken Blanchard suggests twelve different areas for employee work passion. Organization factors such as collaboration, performance expectations, growth, procedural justice (fairness) and distributive justice (rewards) are fundamental values to a Social Business Culture if future employee passion is being hoped for. Does your company truly know what your workforce is passionate about? Have you ever asked them? Genuinely found out? Maybe it is time for HR to revisit and reconsider, don’t you think? Let’s make no mistake about it, passionate employees will be much more inclined to bear additional work hours than a disengaged or passive crowd of workers.
5. Create writable walls and workforce sharing spaces
Food and drinks always bring people together. Like any local bar, it is a place for venting, sharing or listening while drinking a pint of your favorite Weiss Beer or Lager! How about coming up with a company bar where workers could get together after work? Would not it be great to enjoy a drink, casually chat while exchanging ideas with CXOs?
“Says tvsdesign’s Don Ricker, ‘Our most successful office designs feature writable walls in large open spaces where multiple people from diverse teams gather to exchange ideas and feedback. This fosters genuine collaboration along with a sense of play and fun, which in turn, opens the floodgates of creativity while serving as a potent morale booster.’”
How are you fostering company creativity and employee divergent thinking? How are you systematically destroying the silos of traditional communication and replacing them with a flat, open cultu.re? Looking forward to your comments.