Why are some companies viewed as more innovative and creative than others? What to do in order to make the workspace in your company favor new ideas and unusual decisions? Here are a couple of tips derived from observing the workspace and work culture in companies such as Facebook, Virgin Airlines and IDEO.
An inspiring workspace
Entering Facebooks headquarters one can spot some awe inspiring artistic installations and murals, while balloons detailing an employees’ work history for the company are attached to their desk. Rock music is played in the headquarters of Virgin Airlines (a British airline) and the smell of fresh flowers hits you as soon as you walk through the door. In IDEO, a design and consulting agency, colorful office appliances like paperclips and pens can be found on tables in every room. Pay attention to the interior you work in every day and be sure not to make it boring, oppressive and uncomfortable.
Employ the right people
If you want a creative work environment in your organization – employ the right people, with passion and ambitious. Those for whom work with you will be a challenge and a source of satisfaction. Only satisfied employees are able to produce services or products of high quality. Sometimes it is better to hire someone who does not have much experience in the industry or in a given position, but has a glint in his/her eye and a huge enthusiasm for work. It will pay off sooner or later.
Individual approach to customers makes a good business foundation of customer service. Allow your employees to implement their own ideas in their daily work, let them feel in charge, let them be decision makers, let them know that they also have a real influence on what the place where they spend ⅓ of their lives looks like. For example – Virgin Airlines allows its employees to come up with funny messages on the displays in the departure hall (which can be especially useful in the case of a delay). A message may for instance read:
“The plane is delayed because of traffic restrictions at the airport. As soon as the plane lands we will release a rabid badger which will encourage passengers to quickly leave the deck. As soon as we make sure that the badger is safe, we will clean up the deck and invite you onto your flight to Washington.”
Integration during dining
This is not a joke. Eating together brings people closer. It is no coincidence that the kitchen is the most bustling and crowded room in many homes. It may also be the case in places where a lot of people work together. At IDEO, every Tuesday employees can eat oatmeal for breakfast together, there is a soup lunch every Friday and time for tea and biscuits once a week. A full kitchen during meal breaks encourages dialogue and getting to know employees with whom we may not be in touch on a daily basis because they work in other teams or offices. Company outings for a beer and pizza also won't hurt.
Contests may take the form of creative competition on the topics from the areas of your company’s activity, or they may be treated as traditional hackathons, i.e. programming competitions. According to Izabela Błażowska from the ChallengeRocket.com platform (where you can find many examples of such competitions), “healthy competition strongly stimulates creativity among employees. It can also turn out that they come up with ideas that could greatly facilitate and enhance work for the rest of the team.”
Change things constantly
Do not let the people you work with feel overwhelmed by everyday, unchanging atmosphere in the office. Encourage small, everyday changes. Don’t let them work in their chairs, at their desks, make them sit on cushions on the floor or on the boardroom couch or standing up, if they feel like it. Change the picture on the wall, change the radio station or take a break during the day and watch an episode of your favorite series. It's a simple, yet innovative way to shake things up and let some fresh ideas come in. For instance, Facebook organizes Hackamonth – a month in which employees are free to join another team than the one they work with normally. If it turns out that they feel better working there, they are free to transfer to that team.
Experiment and don't be afraid of failures
The most creative companies in the world allow their employees to experiment. Even if something goes wrong or does not work out as planned, the world will not collapse, and something of value may still come of it. It's a healthy approach that lets the teams grow. Allow yourself and your colleagues to take risks, trust them. At Facebook, every summer an intern accidentally turns off the page (these are the moments when you cannot refresh your homepage and you think it's a problem with the Internet), but this has no major impact on its operations.
Provide flexible working hours
Creativity cannot be turned on at 9 am and off at 5 pm. Sometimes the best ideas come to mind in the shower or during an evening jog. Allow your employees to choose working hours that best suit them. Some people are most productive right after getting up, others work best when everyone else leaves the office and it is more quiet – respect that and the company will gain a lot. This solution also supports your co-workers life commitments like family, hobbies or being a parent.