If coming to work inspires dread in your employees, your company is probably in serious trouble. Ever notice that the most successful people often feel like they’re not working at all, even though they put in more hours, have exacting standards, and face incredible pressure. Mounting evidence suggests that productivity and creativity make wonderful playmates. The more work resembles fun, more tends to get done. So how do you set free innate employee creativity?
Seriously. Food inspires us. It awakens our senses (as long as we don’t overindulge). Companies like Google and Yahoo provide their employees with free meals, and they have different cafeteria and snack options. The innovative company Ning in Palo Alto also ensures that snacks are available at all times. Snacks give us the energy to keep working; they provide just enough distraction from work to keep us from burning out. What’s more, even something as simple a cookie jar serves as a meeting place where people gather. This leads to conversation, collaboration, cooperation (Maybe cohabitation. Couldn’t resist. But see, the spirit of play is contagious and generative).
Still serious. While online retailer ThinkGeek may be in the business of selling lots of fun stuff, they also keep an office full of toys to spark creativity. Employees may play video games, guitars, and know they will be given a hero’s welcome if they walk through the door wearing unusual clothing–such as a Ghostbuster’s uniform. The co-working space Flip-Work in L.A. has a decompression room where wired workers can play foosball, air hockey, or pool. Similar to how snacks work, games bring employees together. They also switch gears in the brain, allowing for the unconscious to go to work solving problems.
How often do we have our best ideas when not directly working on problems? (Of course, the struggle and hard work prepare us for inspiration.) I suggest workplaces have a shower installed. Only slightly in jest. When I interview entrepreneurs and ask when their best ideas come to them, the leading response by far is in the shower. Activity that takes our mind off work often help us do our best work.
The more employees feel like equals, like valued participants and less like peons, the more energy and enthusiasm they’re likely to bring to the company. From ad agencies to Ning once again, the more horizontal the hierarchy of the company, the more employees tend to contribute. Founders would do well to ask, “How do I reward creativity?” or “What do I that encourages or inspires creativity?” If your staff looks as animated as a tank of belly-up fish during your routine meetings, the time might be right to consider a creative shakeup.
Google is probably the most often referenced company for outstanding employee conditions, and for good reason. Their 20 percent rule is another great example of putting employees on elevated creative turf. Employees are encouraged to devote 20% of their work day toward projects that they’re most jazzed about. This liberty demonstrates trust in and appreciation for employees’ creative input. With just a few boundaries to direct creative energy, and a safety net that allows for taking risks, there’s every reason to let employees’ imaginations run free.
Do you have a innovative or tried-and-true method to coax out your employees’ creative sides? Please share with us in the comments section below.