In the software development world employers always look for creative coders. Such employees come up with innovative ideas which may save a lot of time when developing functionalities that are hard to create. They see doors where others see walls. My colleague once said that all best ideas result from coders’ laziness. They use their creativity to make their life simpler. As I mentioned in my previous post, the best coders don’t aim for complexity while missing the obvious solutions. They usually are faithful to simplicity. But this requires creativity.
Creativity triggers agility?
From the employer’s point of view creative employees possess a lot of flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in the workplace. They accept fussy clients, who constantly change their minds and rarely feel offended after their solution is rejected. It makes them more agile as workers and allows the company to follow Agile project management more effectively.
How not to kill this precious creativity in people then? How can we create the proper environment for the employee to thrive? Undoubtedly, some individuals are more creative than others. This quality has nothing to do with age, experience or the salary. It just happens to some people. However, it requires a proper environment to be revealed.
Leaders should make it less risky to take the risk.
A good manager knows how to stimulate those who can contribute fresh ideas, who are not afraid to think in an innovative way. According to the authors of Funky Business, a good leader is someone who can achieve extraordinary things with ordinary people. But these people must dare to take the risk, and the leader should realize that we all learn from small catastrophes. The authors later remind us that failure is the mechanism responsible for human progress.
“If it hadn’t been for the fools who tried to do the impossible over and over again we would still be living in the caves.”
Let your people make mistakes.
It takes a lot of bad ideas before you find a good one
Avoid being too critical when employees come up with ideas no matter how much you hate them. Finding a suitable solution sometimes takes a lot of time but if you ridicule them too often they will feel smothered and eventually feel blocked.
Communication is the key
Employees need to be aware of all aspects of the issue he is faced with in order to come up with creative solutions. If everyone is aware of what the team is trying to accomplish, and what the company’s goals are it’s easier to think creatively.
Junior developers are also creative
Don’t assume that only the most experienced and senior coders know all the answers. Sometimes it’s quite the opposite. They walk the same paths over and over again, using the same thinking patterns. Their thinking is often so “normal”. Juniors are not infected with ideas or fixed patterns. Besides they live in a different way, treat technology more as a tool than something really special. And they know better how to use these tools.
Let people be abnormal
Funky Business spreads the idea of “abnormality”: Stop being normal. Abandon some ideas. Normal output will produce normal results. Fresh blood in the company may also bring fresh valuable ideas. In other words, if we behave like others, hire the same people, see the same things, we will eventually come up with the same ideas and develop identical products. As a result, we will drown in the sea of normality.
To be creative we need a slack
Companies should offer time for casual conversations, mingling, socializing and relationship building. Some companies offer sabbatical leaves/gap years or let employees work on their own projects during work hours. Google, for instance, is already famous for their philosophy of 20% time in which their engineers are allowed to develop things that aren’t necessarily in their job description. This concept represents Google’s attitude to hierarchy and creativity. The fundamental rule is simple, the best ideas are further developed no matter where they came from.
Creativity thrives on diversity
Employees should be pushed out of their comfort zones and be exposed to a variety of different stimuli (attending conferences and workshops outside of the normal areas of expertise, working with people from other departments, or networking with people from the same line of business but outside their workplace, brainstorming sessions etc.) Make sure your employees know what other departments are up to, and in what way their creative ideas connect with other people’s work.
Promote the freedom of thought and action
If employees feel intimidated and ridiculed they will eventually give up. They need to feel the freedom of thought. Stimulate them to communicate their ideas bravely by asking what they think, even by distributing surveys or engaging them in brainstorming sessions. Involve them in the company matters, in decision processes; it makes them more committed as they know their opinion is actually taken into account and is valuable to the organization. When you feel you can shape the reality your commitment and creativity naturally skyrockets. Teach people about an open-door work culture. At the beginning it may take a while for the employees to get used to it. Start from early days. For instance, arrange probation evaluation meetings after the first month of employment and ask newbies what they like about the company, what should be changed, improved etc. These ideas might prove valuable, they look from a fresh perspective.
Implement creative ideas
If you manage to set up the creative workplace and the ideas start finally flood in— it’s essential to consider them carefully, select, encourage, and implement the best ones. It’s important that creative thinking translates into concrete projects, programs, and products and is not only the part of work culture. However, everybody should be prepared for receiving a wet blanket since most of great ideas are likely to be rejected. Apparently, it also varies according to different cultures, eg. American companies adopt about 38% of all creative ideas presented to them, in comparison, Japanese companies implement about 90% of them.
What has been your last year’s invention?