Creativity & Vibrancy in Business
This is a favorite topic of mine. One of the benefits of being able to assess many types of businesses is the different experiences you encounter. In some instances you can tell immediately the first time you walk in the door whether the issues are human resource-oriented or not.
The ability to be creative and vibrant in your work is what creates endless ideas and makes the workplace an exciting place to be. This is particularly important if you have thin margins and can’t necessarily pay for top-notch talent. However, talent can be developed by allowing your staff some autonomy, ability to express new ideas, and generally working in a fun, invigorating and energizing environment. Most will realize that they may not get that opportunity at another company although they may be offered a higher paying position. I have seen it on multiple occasions.
This is not the same as someone who doesn’t want to make a change because they don’t like making changes, even if they dislike going to work. I am talking about employees who enthusiastically enjoy their work and work environment and get up in the morning excited to go to work.
I have also walked into businesses that are like walking into a morgue…a place where people go before the afterlife. Seriously, no vibrancy, no energy, solemn looks on people’s faces, and guess what, usually no revenue growth or profitability. If you add lower than industry pay to the equation, the company’s future has been sealed.
No matter the industry you’re in, some more than others, I believe that any company requires a certain degree of creativity and should allow some autonomy in its people. It’s how you grow and progress, and if there are a few experiments along the way that go awry…well there is the old adage “if you’re never failing you’re not trying hard enough”. You can get creative ideas from almost everyone in your organization, from the receptionist to the VPs. I once was tasked with cutting the admin expenses for a rather large company. I set up an incentive program for the admin staff that if they came up with an idea that resulted in savings for the company, they would receive a certain dollar amount of bonus. The response was overwhelming and resulted in a 25% reduction in admin expenses, and some pretty happy employees for getting great bonuses (not just $100’s of dollars, but meaningful amounts). The 25% reduction included the bonuses so a win-win for everyone and thereafter they had a pretty stringent purchasing and usage policy essentially put in place by the employees rather than management.
That is just one example, and everyone could participate in one form or another. Of course you don’t want any creative accounting practices, but even having creative analysts can be a great asset. Let them slice and dice the numbers and metrics to come up with innovative ways to assess the profitable and unprofitable aspects of the business, products or services (this is another article in the works).
What allows for this kind of environment? What allows for it is to have a management team that is astute enough, experienced enough, and confident enough in their ability to perceive what could work and what won’t work in any of their staffs ideas, and in both cases guide them and encourage them to continue to come up with new ideas. Great managers will do this and not feel threatened. The receptionist sees things a little differently than the CEO. Promote an energetic, ambitious and fun atmosphere, and for lack of a better word, get rid of anyone who interferes with it.
What prevents a company from developing this kind of environment? It can be a multitude of things from bad management to keeping disruptive staff to politics. However, what has become more common is the increase in stringent policies and procedures which tend to handcuff creativity. This is a difficult one to address, particularly with public companies, as they don’t really have much of a choice. Many companies have gone from public to private because of the regulatory environment.
On the other hand, what I also see are growing organizations who are not public, but primarily their middle management try to sell the idea of increasing and solidifying the policies and procedures as if they were a large public company. This baffles me to no end as it even happens to experienced entrepreneurs. Why stifle your creativity and flexibility, and your competitive advantages and ability to make changes quickly by doing this? It doesn’t make sense. Use your advantages, and to a degree be careful of what those people who may have a good education but have never run their own business try to sell you to get to their own end goal. In essence, make work projects.
When you’re thinking about what allows for creative and vibrancy in your business, look to Richard Branson. Look to why companies hire someone like Tony Robbins for direction. It’s often to regain something that they had but have since lost. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, nearly every mature company has experienced this at one point or another, and for start-ups and new companies, embrace this from the beginning.
Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”
― Thomas Edison