David Kelley, the founder of Silicon Valley design firm IDEO, wanted his company to feel like it was an office of "best friends" collaborating and having fun being creative and productive, Duane Bray, the head of global talent and a partner at IDEO, writes in Harvard Business Review.
To help promote engagement and the positive, friendly atmosphere Kelley was intent on creating, Bray came up with four key strategies to help drive that type of culture. Below, find out how IDEO keeps their employees engaged and coming up with creative solutions for its clients.
Experiment and play
You want your employees to be have solid bonds that allow them to collaborate, grow ideas into real products or solutions, and be engaged with their work. At IDEO, Kelley pushes a culture of play, experimentation, and creation.
"When people play together, they form stronger bonds and are more willing to take risks and imagine new possibilities with one another. Employees need to know that experimentation is not only allowed, it's actively encouraged," Bray writes of Kelley's philosophy.
You should provide "maker spaces"--areas around the office in which teams can brainstorm ideas, collaborate, experiment and ultimately, bring their "ideas to life," Bray writes.
Bring your mission statement down to earth
Sometimes a company's lofty mission statement feels unattainable for many employees. IDEO's purpose statement, "Positive and disproportionate impact in the world through design," is broad and ambitious, so each manager, Bray writes, brings the goal down to earth by simplifying it and connecting it to the employees' everyday work. Tailor the company's mission to each team's specific function.
"This helps employees figure out which work best aligns with their skills and where they're going to be most engaged and successful in the organization," Bray writes.
Create a social contract
Set the values of your company. IDEO has a core of seven values that bind every employee to one another: "be optimistic, collaborate, learn from failure, embrace ambiguity, talk less and do more, take ownership, and lastly, make others successful," Bray writes.
Publicly stressing these values to your team, and holding them accountable to those values, creates a social contract that helps drive positive employee behavior.
Foster bottom-up creativity
Creativity and engagement cannot be forced upon employees. "Top-down directives don't work terribly well," Bray says. "We've learned that the best new ideas and capabilities are often incubated from the bottom up through someone's personal energy and commitment."
You cannot demand ideas and creativity. Great ideas come from passionate employees who have authority to make those ideas into something real. Give your employees both the authority and the resources to work on pet projects. Every employee should be able to pitch ideas, be taken seriously, and bring their creativity to life.