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The Survival of Your Company Depends on the Creativity of Your Employees

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The Survival of Your Company Depends on the Creativity of Your Employees

Amazon says simply they want to be the most customer focused company in the world. They are about inspiring creativity, developing new markets and delighting customers, not maximizing book earnings to please stock analysts. With pervasive technology disruption, businesses must be creative to grow.

Succesful, creative companies are easy to name:  Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Federal Express, Netflix.  Some of these may have lucked into a their business model, or came onto the market at a unique time, or had an unusually capable leader.  Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, looks to hire creative people and gave Steve Jobs his first job.  Because Steve was uniquely unruly, Nolan allowed Steve to work at nights and on weekends so he wouldn’t disrupt other employees.  Successful companies must hire, nurture and motivate creative people and finding the next Steve Jobs may be critical to survival.   

Here are ten ideas on how to hire and encourage the creative people that could be the basis of your company’s survival:

1.     Make your workplace an advertisement for your company.  If you want ordinary employees, then promote your company as an ordinary workplace.  If you want creative employees, then demonstrate creativity through your web site, promotional materials and office environment.

2.     Hire for passion and intensity.  Passionate people are prepared to talk about ideas rather than their resume.  Passionate people talk about what they want to do and can do – not why they haven’t done it yet.

3.     Look for hobbies; ask about books.  What unites creative people is a passion for diverse knowledge.  Serious hobbies are a sign of this passion.

4.     Avoid the clones; beware of credentials.  HR Departments tend to hire the same people over and over, regardless of differences in ethnicity or gender.  But hiring a creative work force is about embracing risk, not mitigating it.  You may be in trouble if all your employees are college graduates and none of them have tattoos.

5.     Celebrate failure.  If people are reluctant to suggest bad ideas, they are afraid of failure.  A company must make failure a tenable option to encourage ideas.

6.     Skunk it up.  As companies grow, they tend to increase in bureaucracy and decrease in creativity and nimbleness.  One way to avoid ossification is to create skunk works that are physically separated from the main business.

7.     Foster fairness.  Accolades and rewards should be shared by the team.  No-one who originated an idea should be allowed to censor improvements by other team members. 

8.     Neutralize the naysayers.  Delegate and avoid “Management”, which is largely about saying “no”.  Managing creatives should be about helping them put their interesting, risky and potentially valuable ideas on the table.

9.     Duck processes.  Most corporate processes are about saving money and keeping control centralized. Speed to market is the key to survival today.

10.  Don’t count on accounting.  stock analysts can’t measure creativity.  Get your CFO to quantify the unknowns, rather than enforcing the budget






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Subscribe to comments feed Comments (3 posted)

Susan Hanna 01/19/2014 10:55:24
Great article Ted. It took some guts for Nolan to hire Jobs, given how anti- everything he was at the time. Glad he's still expousing this view that made him famous!
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Jim Walsh 01/14/2014 09:38:52
I couldn't agree with Ted's article more - although, unfortunately, stock analysts, owners, and cost controls can't be ignored. Establishing the proper environment and hiring the right people are essential to driving innovation, customer satisfaction, and profitable growth. And this is essential across the board. Back office employees have the opportunity to innovate and serve their "customers" better in the same way that product development, engineering, and sales do. It is imperative that management places a priority on the hiring process and spends the time to do it right. bringing the right people with the right ideas on board, and then retaining them is probably the most important factor in a business's success. Those people should not be clones of the individual to who they report. They should provide diverse, complementary skills and should not hesitate to present their thoughts (and the manager must listen and act on those thoughts as appropriate). I would also suggest that it's OK for HR to initiate the search for a new employee, but they need to do so with very specific instruction from the hiring manager. Once candidates are identified, the hiring manager should drive the process.
Ted Pryor 01/15/2014 10:50:14
Great comments Jim. Thanks for the feedback. Of course I agree that investors, owners and cost controls must be respected, but I think some companies become fixed on managing costs to suit the stock analyst models instead of focusing on creativity and acquiring customers. Best, Ted
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Ted Pryor
Ted Pryor
Ted Pryor is a Managing Director with Greenwich Harbor Partners and focuses on senior level executive recruiting in Media, Technology and Business Services including general management, sales, marketing and customer service. He has over ten years of experience as a senior executive at GE Capital and over 20 years of experience in corporate finance. Prior to executive recruiting, he served as CFO and CEO of a venture backed start-up company.

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