September 30, 2013


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How do you develop creative culture?

creative culture

Creative culture has become something of a buzzword over the last few years. In the business world, companies are starting to believe they need to have a creative culture in order to compete in the marketplace. This, of course, depends entirely on the business and the market, but overall I think it’s true.

In my experience, creative culture can’t be engineered. It can be fostered. It can be grown. But the roots have to be there. And the roots are the people.

Do you have the right people? Almost all organizations take on the personality, strengths and weaknesses of their leadership. Is the leadership creative by nature? Do they truly encourage creativity? Does it have a meaningful place in the organization? Office scooters and bean bags don’t make a place creative. Neither do company kitchens and team happy hours. It’s the people.

Creative culture must also come from within the daily work that the company does(not from extraneous activities added onto the existing work). The challenge is that often the work we do is repetitive. Sometimes even mundane. How do you make that creative? How do you take an environment that has been static and make it dynamic? I have a few ideas.

1. Care more. It’s really that simple. The most contagious thing in a work environment is caring(and also, unfortunately, not caring). Caring about the work, the people and manner in which we interact is the first step to creating good culture.

2. Share more. Finding inspiration(especially outside of the workplace) and sharing that inspiration can often change how we look at the work we do. In addition, an environment where shared success is more important than individual credit fosters more creativity.

3. Change the work you do. This is a tough one. It might not really be feasible from a business perspective, but sometimes a refocus of a team or company can reenergize that company. Sometimes we need a new challenge. Sometimes we need new work.

4. Encourage courage. Reward courage. Even if a courageous effort ends up being a spectacular failure. Especially if it ended up being a failure. That sends the message that taking risks is important and necessary for the company to succeed.

5. Expect more. All too often we get in a groove of business-as-usual work. We slowly but surely lower our standards. We get lazy. Having high expectations is necessary for truly creative work. Setting those expectations, communicating them clearly and then empowering your team to go out and exceed them is what separates average from great.

These are traits and actions that must be inherent to the leadership of an organization for it to be creative. This list is by no means the end all be all, but when I think back to past companies I’ve been at, or I think about where I am now and when my team is doing their best work, we are usually embodying some or all of the traits listed above.

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