The folks at startup Wazoku are big fans of using the right tech tools to help generate innovation--they're the makers of software to help companies come up with and sort through creative ideas, after all. But when it comes to being more innovative, they claim in a recent post on the company blog, sometimes the right vibe around the office is just as valuable as the best technology, the latest brainstorming technique, or the slickest collaboration-boosting space design.
The Wazoku team "spends quite a bit of time advising clients on the cultural elements" of idea generation, co-founder and CEO Simon Hill told me in an email about the ideas in the post. The company also makes an effort to eat its own dog food, developing and testing ideas in its own office for unlocking employees' creativity. "Having a spirit and culture of openness and idea sharing is core to the organizational culture we are developing," Hill insisted.
So how do you get the sort of office environment that will encourage your team members to maximize their creativity? Hill expanded on several ideas in the post.
1. Read the unrelated ...
"Encourage your employees to read on a daily basis and to research topics that are unrelated to your industry," the post suggests. How to do this? How about subscribing to some magazines (both in your niche and not), as well as buying books and leaving them around the office. And if you see someone carrying around some interesting reading material, be sure to stop and engage the person in a chat about what he or she is reading.
2. ... and write and draw, too
"We are in the process of turning our office into our creative canvas," Hill reports. "Our office entrance was designed and painted by some of the team, and our corporate blog is also open to anyone to contribute to, and we encourage everyone to share updates through this."
The essential takeaway here, according to the blog post, isn't any one specific outlet for employee creativity, but instead finding whatever method works for you to "encourage [employees] to write and draw regularly, to illustrate and make a record of their thoughts and ideas."
3. Innovation time
You don't have to do the full Google and allot 20 percent of employees' time for their own projects, but you do have to make some space in people's schedules for them to innovate, Hill insists.
Here's how Wazoku is doing it: "A new concept for us is to allow time for people to work on their own projects and have some time and space to think. Once a month, we run Wazo-Wednesdays where people can work on their own projects during work time, and we present these back on our Friday company standup, which is one of the many company retrospectives."
Which brings us to another idea for a more creative culture--regularly planned opportunities to look back on and celebrate what you've achieved, and also to analyze and learn from past mistakes. Wazoku calls these retrospectives.
"Our Friday standups are an opportunity for anyone in the company to share a particular highlight, success, or proud moment of the week," Hill reports. "All teams participate, and these are great for open sharing and getting everyone involved in all the things we do on a weekly basis."
5. Play music
Isn't this distracting for those who need to concentrate (and aren't employees always fighting over whether it's time for hip hop or country)? Nope, reports Hill. "Some think this can be a distraction, but in reality we have found that having music in the office has relaxed the general working environment and provides another forum for everyone to mix and learn a bit more about those around them," he wrote. "We have various office playlists open to everyone to add to, including specific-country-themed ones representing all the nationalities we have in the office."
Check out the complete post for more ideas.
What's your best suggestion for nurturing a more creative office environment?