Want to Improve Creativity and Retain Your Talent? Step Away From the Desk

13 Dec 2017

The pace of technological change is increasing. If you were to plot it on a graph, you’d see a sharper uptick over the last few years. If you intend to take advantage of this change—for your organization or your clients—you have to get your head out of your work. If you spend every workday buried in the details of a project, you won’t have the space and freedom your creative mind needs to invent new opportunities. You need room to build ideas and explore new territory.

There’s another danger to always being buried in your daily tasks: You’ll lose some of your best staff members. Simply put, work isn’t much fun if you’re always doing the same thing.

One way we try to combat this danger is the “One New Thing” initiative. It works like this: Once a month (or so), usually at lunchtime, a staff member or someone in the community teaches us about something new. It can be almost anything—new technologies, design trends, media platforms, or just practical advice on managing everyday life.

Our most recent “One New Thing” was a staff field trip to a local studio specializing in Virtual Reality. We had a wonderful time exploring the technology (aka, having fun). But we left inspired with new ideas we can bring to our clients, new ways to make VR a practical tool for them. It was a win-win.

Other “One New Thing” sessions covered topics as diverse as:

  • Fundamentals of accessible web design
  • How to cook the perfect egg
  • Applying project management tactics to everyday life
  • Screenprinting

Along the way, we’ve learned a number of lessons for crafting a creative, inspiring work culture that never gets boring:

  1. Present diverse subjects from diverse people.
  2. Offer events on a regular, predictable schedule.
  3. Don’t overwhelm staff with too many events (even the fun ones). Once a month seems to work for us, and it encourages innovation without over-burdening staff with additional meetings. Give enough space—aka, breathing room—between events to allow the creative mind to flourish.
  4. Make these events optional.
  5. Put your money where your goals are. Be willing to spend resources on encouraging creative thinking.
  6. Pick real deadlines and stick to them.
  7. Let staff report on the successes and failures of each creative session or initiative. Sharing thoughts on the creative process encourages people to stay on track and demonstrates your organization’s support for that process.
  8. Put it into production. Make it happen. It’s fun to think about progress. It’s even more fun to show it.
  9. Take what you learn—take your inspiration—and immediately find a way to incorporate it into your work.
  10. Track creativity in performance reviews.
  11. Celebrate innovation by asking people for a self-review: “What are the three things you’re most proud of in your work over the last year? What did you do that taught you something new? What do you want to explore next year? How can I support you?”

We believe that when you hire people who are engaged, curious, effective and open communicators, and give them the time, the training, and the routine opportunity to explore new ideas, they will succeed. Your clients will flourish, and so will you.