Creating the Creative Team

Written by Chris Lucas on January 4, 2012

Posted in Human Resources

Crayons

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/purple-lover/

Ever since I heard Josh Linkner speak about creativity at the Business of Software conference, I have been trying to figure out ways to make Formstack a more creative…or at least, openly creative environment. We have taken a few steps to nurture creativity and I thought it would good to share a little about how we are trying to be more creative and why we are doing it.

The Creativity Myth

One of the great myths of creativity, as Linkner points out, is that people are either born with or without creativity. Studies have shown that people are inherently creative and that creativity can be nurtured. Unfortunately, and especially in tough economic times, it seems that more and more companies are intent on squashing creativity in hopes of keeping the status quo; rather than fostering creative thinking that could build the business.  Knowing this, we thought that we could help build a more creative environment that would in turn draw the creativity out of our team and help grow our business in new directions.

What We Are Doing

To kick off the creative flow, we had a meeting. What better way to break the creativity than a boring meeting, right? Well, we did two things, one; we reviewed some of the ideas behind Josh’s talk from BOS, and his book. We also showed a quick YouTube video then broke out into a creative exercise. We had everyone pair off in two’s and we gave the teams a random page from a magazine. We then gave them a few minutes to come up with a story of what was going on using only the pictures on the page. What were they doing there, how did the people get there, what was their backstory? We had a variety of funny stories. Everything from Russian spies to tragic romantic comedic tales were told…and everyone had fun!

After the meeting we broke out with a simple question. “If you were coming into this market with a competing product, what would you do to win?” Everyone wrote their ideas on the white board and we had a follow up conversation, preceded with some stretching to get our body and minds limber.

Out of all the great ideas, we were actually able to pinpoint two key areas of our business that could be helped. We have since created a Google doc that has all of the ideas on it. We are also implementing creative time, encouraging everyone on the team to spend 2 hours of their week solving a problem with some creative thinking. The focused problems will come from the document we have created.

Just the Beginning

While we are not naive enough to think that just dedicating 2 hours a week to creativity will make us all creative geniuses, we do think that taking this initial step will allow us to start infusing more creativity in all of the things that we do. All of us, whether it is our development team, our marketing department or our support team, are creative individuals. The proof has been shown in the few simple exercises we have done. We have a dynamic team, and we are going to do a lot more to foster that creativity and hopefully build a culture devoted to fostering creative problem solving.

What do you do in your organization to foster creativity? We’d love to know in the comments below.