Design a Creative Culture
Ten principles for stimulating innovation
Right now, during this time of turmoil around the world, creativity will be vital in providing a roadmap out. This is the time to develop a creative culture inside your organization.
So how to do you build a creative culture?
1. Create stability. Creative people need stability. If they’re worried about losing their job, financial problems, or excessive turnover, they’ll never release their best ideas. I’ve seen terrible leaders think they’re motivating the team by threatening them with being fired — the worst thing you could ever do.
2. Make it safe from excessive criticism. Critics are a dime a dozen, but leaders who can help their team move from bad ideas to legendary ideas are rare. There’s a time to look at what doesn’t work, but criticism always goes down better when it comes from a trusted and respected source.
3. Make sure your leaders are on the same page. All it takes is one of your leaders to contradict what you’re trying to do to wreck a creative culture. At the beginning of building your culture, make absolutely sure your leadership team is unified and moving with you.
4. Be flexible. Creative people don’t all operate on the same schedule or work the same way. Give your team some flexibility, and it will revolutionize their attitude. At one major nonprofit I talked the CEO into allowing the creative team to rip up carpet, repaint, dump the cubicles, and design their own work spaces. There was fear and trembling on the CEO’s part, but within a matter of months, the creative team transformed that organization.
5. Get them the tools they need. Nothing drags a creative team down as much as broken, old or out-of-date tools. Think about it: The less time and energy they spend overcoming technical and equipment problems, the more time and energy they can spend on developing amazing ideas.
6. Push them outside their comfort zone. Leaders often think that creative people want to be left alone and operate on their own schedule. While they probably won’t admit it, creative people love deadlines because it gives them perspective on the project.
7. Get out of their way. One of the most important aspects of a creative culture, once it’s in process, is to get out of the way of your creative team. We all know micro-managing is a disaster for anyone — especially creatives. So give them space and let them solve problems on their own.
8. Understand the difference between organizational and communication structure. Every organization needs an organizational structure. Who reports to who matters, and hierarchy is important. But when it comes to communication, I recommend you throw the organizational structure out the window. Your creative team should be able to call anyone to ask questions and discuss ideas. Don’t force them to communicate through supervisors, managers or anyone else. Create a free-flowing communications system, and the ideas will grow.
9. Walk the factory floor. Leadership expert John Maxwell recommends that leaders “walk the factory floor” and meet every employee. Develop a personal relationship with employees at all levels — especially when it comes to your creative team.
10. Give them credit. Finally, a great creative culture allows everyone to be noticed for their accomplishments. Never take credit for your team’s work, and always give them the honor they’re due. You’ll find that when you protect your creative team and allow them to get the glory for their work, they’ll follow you into a fire.