It is indeed quite rare to encounter a company — startup or otherwise — capable of legitimately boasting a staff operating anywhere near a peak level of creativity. In fact, it is unfortunately common that many professionals self-apply a label lamenting a total lack of creativity, even when it is absolutely erroneous to do so. This only underscores just how important it is for entrepreneurs to work diligently to cultivate a creative and productive work environment in which all employees are functioning according to their greatest potential on a consistent basis.
James Knight, virtual production director at AMD, is obviously quite familiar with all manner of creative pursuits and can draw on a professional career in which he has maximized his own creativity as well as the creativity of those around him. It is this extensive professional experience that has enabled Knight to offer the following strategies for cultivating an exceptional work environment in which all employees are able to tap into their creative abilities in a fashion that naturally leads to optimal levels of productivity.
Collaborate on a Wide Range of (Fun) Projects
As a virtual production director, Knight has worked on solo projects as well as collaborative efforts throughout the course of his wildly successful professional career. Most employees will feel more comfortable working as an individual while others will prefer groups, but everyone should be able to function quite well independent of either set of circumstances.
As long as it does not detract from any critical or otherwise pressing responsibilities, encourage employees to collaborate on fun, low-stress projects to further bond with their co-workers while also learning all of the skills necessary to thrive in a collaborative environment. The reverse can also be done for those that tend to prefer group projects, but it is important to note that you or a trusted colleague has to be available to offer guidance throughout such a project in order to ensure the best possible result.
Emphasize Autonomy, Ownership, and Responsibility
Startups tend to rely on the versatility and the resourcefulness of their employees, and these traits tend to emerge in a work environment that emphasizes autonomy along with a sense of ownership and accountability. It is up to you to prepare your employees to act autonomously and to make decisions that benefit the company, so make sure you clearly elucidate every last detail associated with the company’s philosophy and core values while also instilling in your employees a sense of ownership in the company as well as in its direction over the short and long term. This will ensure that employees feel a sense of professional freedom that subsequently encourages creative thinking across a wide variety of situations and circumstances.
Be Honest, Direct, and Consistent
The creative mindset is easily disrupted by any kind of worry or self-doubt, but these muddying traits can be eliminated if you are consistently honest and entirely direct when communicating with your employees. When expectations are clearly defined and readily understood, your staff will be unencumbered by concerns or doubts, thereby enabling a creative and highly productive environment.
Welcome Differing Perspectives
Companies that are serious about instilling a sense of ownership in their entire staff understand the necessity of welcoming a wide range of differing perspectives by encouraging thoughtful — and polite — disagreement regarding just about every critical business decision. Ask for input and demonstrate how you value that input each and every time it is offered, as this will ensure that employees feel comfortable weighing in on important company issues and will work hard to remain thoroughly informed so that their insight is always valuable and relevant.
Adopt a Flexible Approach
Creativity tends to thrive within a flexible environment, so provide your employees with a sense of flexibility regarding the hours they work and the time they take off. Some of your employees will feel they are most creative during the early hours of the morning before sunrise, and others will prefer to sleep in so they feel refreshed when they start their workday in the afternoon.
As long as responsibilities are met and time is used efficiently, strict adherence to a pre-set schedule is largely unnecessary and counterproductive. A flexible approach is far more likely to contribute to a creative and productive work environment, not to mention the fact that it will strengthen the company’s rate of employee retention and will also improve the overall happiness of your exceptionally creative and productive employees.