on January 29, 2015 Creativity

How 3M, Nike and P&G Are Fostering a Creativite Culture

Today’s successful companies understand the importance of creativity and collaboration. It's one of th primary reasons that they're still successful. But, understaning it and fostering it... well, these are two very different things.

First, let's dispell some myths around creativity. Creativity is not the work of a solo genuis or those who are deemed "artistic." It can be taught, it can be learned, it can be practiced. Steve Jobs famously said, "Creativity is just connecting things."

I am living proof.

My alma mater, UC DAAP continues to rank as one of the world's top design schools. My acceptance was quite a shocker, as my artistic abilities leave much to be desired. (Keep in mind, I still draw stick figures.)  DAAP's approach? Accept students based on academic performance versus reviewing their design portfolios. They believe that design, like creativity, is a skill that can be taught. If studied and practiced enough, using color, typography, composition and the right medium, you can design (or communicate) any idea clearly. It works.

So, back to that Steve Jobs quote– "Creativity is just connecting things." This is mostly right. However, if I had to iterate on this (as many designers are known to do), I would say that "Creativity is connecting the right things."

How do you know which are the right things?

Large organizings, and many small ones too, have complicated cultures– more people, more processes, more "dots." But, this doesn't have to be a limiter on creativity. Here are 6 ways that successful companies, like 3M, Atlassian, Google, Nike and P&G are fostering creativity through corporate culture.

1. Give Employees Time To Think

Offering up as little as thirty minutes of work time a week for exploratory thought could send the message that creativity is valued, no matter when, where, or how ideas are conceived,” says Amy Fries, author of Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers.

At 3M, every engineer gets an hour of time each day to do what they want, whether it’s working on a side project or a hobby

At Maddock Douglas, a company that helps companies develop and market new products, the team is allowed 100 to 200 hours a year for pursuing anything of interest

Software company Atlassian gives employees the opportunity to take “FedEx Days" - paid days off with an expectation of value delivered 24 hours later

The maker of Turbotax, Intuit, also awards employees with time - 3 months of “unstructured time” can be allocated all at once or spread of six months for innovators to explore new ideas

After the invention of Gore-Tex in 1969, WL Gore & Associates, Inc., decided to prioritize experimental innovation with “dabble time,” which allows employees to spend 10% of their work week on self-selected initiatives. Founder Bill Gore liked to say, "Communication really happens in the car pool."

2. Use Software To Aggregate and Organize Ideas

Many large corporations utilize collaboration software to keep track of inspiration, insights and creative ideation across business functions. For example, Batterii is used by several of the companies*, including Adidas and P&G, who appear on Forbes world’s most innovative company list and world’s most valuable brand list. Teams inside of these companies use Batterii to design better experiences, bringing together research, strategy, design, development and marketing. Platforms like this help individuals and teams see their "dots" and connect ideas faster.

batterii-wallpaper-desk.jpg*Batterii is respecting client confidentiality to honor the requests of our business partners and uphold the integrity of our agreements 

3. Build New Skills with Internal Teams

Try doing your next research or project activities as a cross-functional team. At West Paw, a company producing pet products in Bozeman, MT, the entire company takes part in designing and producing prototypes for new products.

As a part of this initiative, provide opportunities for your internal teams to learn new methods, like Ethnograhy, Coolhunting or Co-creation. Having your team play an active role, from doing the research in the field or co-designing with consumers helps unlock new ideas and experiences vital to what consumers expect today from brands.

Motivating employees goes beyond financial incentives. We all want to learn something new, test it in the wild and gain mastery. Give your teams multiple opportunities to develop new creative skills, from research to strategy and ideation. 

4. Encourage Risk Taking

Sheryl Sandberg’s million-dollar mistake at Google, chronicled by Fortune magazine in an article titled, Chaos by Design, highlights the company’s dedication to innovation and commitment to taking risks even at a very high level with significant money at stake. Larry Page’s response sent a very explicit message to Googlers about what was expected of them.

"I’m so glad you made this mistake," he said, "Because I want to run a company where we are moving too quickly and doing too much, not being too cautious and doing too little. If we don’t have any of these mistakes, we’re just not taking enough risk."

5. Encourage Diversity of Thinking

At Ziba, employees get to see different kinds of work and skills through its Ambassador Program, which sends staff members out for three months to work with different “tribes” and experience the specialties of different team members. Diversity of thinking is important for helping your team see different perspectives and understanding different elements of the business. 

6. Align with a Higher Mission

The software company Intuit, developer of Quicken, Quickbooks, and Turbotax—is very explicit about its mission: "To improve our customers’ financial lives so profoundly they can’t imagine going back to the old way." By aligning with a higher mission, employees feel more motivated to actively pursue innovation. When people feel like they're working on something bigger there's a deeper connection to the work. Deeper meaning makes work more satisfying and enhances employee happiness.  

Make Creativity Part of Your Culture 

Share these ideas with a colleague and discuss how you can make creativity more of a cultural habit at your organization. To learn more about how Batterii can help teams design better experiences, signup for a free trial or contact [email protected] 

Chad Reynolds

Chad Reynolds is the Founder of Batterii, a collaboration platform designed to help teams create better experiences. Over the past 15 years, Chad has worked with brands like Adidas, GE Healthcare, Nike and Procter & Gamble to re-imagine their brand experiences for the next generation of consumers.