All too often, entrepreneurs build companies that stifle the very creativity they need. Here's how to get back that spark.
Starting a business is the ultimate form of creativity. In exploring a new opportunity, you get to build every aspect of your business from scratch, from the product to the culture to the customer experience.
I like to think of this process as solving a big Rubik's cube: Your team is constantly re-working the same puzzle, trying to figure out how to align the color squares on each side. It's about solving short-term problems while not losing sight of your longterm vision. The challenge of solving a constantly evolving problem is why most entrepreneur start companies.
The trouble is, all too often, entrepreneurs end up building organizations that handicap the very creativity they need to be successful. It wasn't until I stepped away from Contour Camera that I realized I was doing the same thing. I let my workaholic tendencies get in the way and built a culture that was constantly short on creative energy.
Here are five changes you can make today to bring creativity back to your culture.Offer Unlimited Vacation
Most managers think vacation policies sound great, on paper. It lets them keep track of how hard people are working and justify why a seat is empty.
To employees, however, vacation policies do just the opposite. They seem to say you don't don't trust them to strike a balance, and like a blaring siren, it serves as a reminder of how little they get to travel. On top of that, most companies cap the number of vacation hours employees can accrue, which doesn't work to their actual benefit.
Offering unlimited vacation won't make people skip work every Friday or leave people hanging at deadlines. Instead, it will give them control to choose when they decide to work and when they don't. Although this may seem trivial, being able to choose means everything in a creative culture.Let Employees Work Remotely
Let's face it: Your office is not where everyone does their best work, not even you. And while offices are great for building comaradery, they can also be rather distracting.
Working remotely doesn't always have to mean being in different cities. As Inc. contributor Jason Fried points out, "Remote just means you're not in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all day long." His company, 37 Signals, has built an entire culture around people who work from anywhere. His latest book, Remote, will inspire you to think differently about how your own team does its best work.Ditch the Meetings
The worst part about meetings is that they're incredibly easy to add. Even if you make an agenda, the number will only go up as you grow in size. As a result, little creative thinking will get done during the day.
You'll start to notice people takings their evenings and weekends to do their best work, when they know they can dive in without distractions. The 30 or 60 minutes in between meetings won't allow them to really get things done, so they'll end up wasting time playing email ping-pong.
Try to cut meetings down to one daily standup. Even if the entire organization has to dial in, it shouldn't last more than 20 minutes, if it's done right. This will keep everyone on track and then free them up to use their day as they want.Nix Department Goals
Department goals often help managers more than employees. Generally, you'll end up wasting valuable hours setting new goals and then even more time asking why you didn't hit them.
Worse still, each department relies on resources they don't control and departments they're not a part of to reach their goals. This can result in teams signing up for work they were unaware of, which can lead to arguments about whose goals are more important.
Instead, try focusing the entire company around two or three mega goals and enable them to figure out how they accomplish them. This helps everyone be creative while making it clear what they're in for.Give Plenty of Feedback
At the end of the day, most people want to do amazing work. They want to surpass expectations, especially their own. Yet a lot of companies make feedback a formal process, waiting until the end of the month, quarter, or year to share how they actually feel.
Creative cultures thrive on timely, spontaneous feedback. Whether it's good or bad, feedback helps teams raise their own expectations. It's the fuel you need to ignite a creative culture. And who doesn't want one of those?
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