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Office life isn’t exactly known for its joyous and freewheeling atmosphere. Even in the most creative of jobs, th...
Office life isn’t exactly known for its joyous and freewheeling atmosphere. Even in the most creative of jobs, the whole routine of Monday through Friday and nine to five can start to feel like a rut. The doldrums start to seep in, and enthusiasm begins to wane. It doesn’t really matter what you do, or how many people you work with, it’s important to avoid getting too automatic. Fostering a creative environment can be an effective way to keep your workplace happy and humming. Beyond that, though, creativity can pay dividends to the company that values it.
Netflix is one of the prime examples of this: CEO Reed Hastings famously outlined Netflix’s culture of freedom and responsibility in a PowerPoint slide deck that went viral on the web. Having evolved from a service that shipped DVDs to its customers to an Emmy-winning producer of original streaming content, it’s easy to see the payoff of its philosophy. Not every company is going to be Netflix, but that doesn’t mean a similar attitude—one that rewards risk and innovation and doesn’t settle for “adequate”—can’t be adopted elsewhere. Netflix expects no less than excellence when it comes to its salaried employees, but it fosters a culture of freedom and responsibility to achieve that. Employees who are merely reliable and competent are let go proactively if they aren’t using that freedom to the fullest advantage. This is the building block of a creative workplace: making sure only creative people work there.
Google, a company well-known for the perks and benefits it provides its employees, is often pointed out for its “20 percent time” program. Truth be told, “program” may be too strong a word, but the idea behind it is no urban legend. Developers may spend up to 20 percent of their hours working on Google-related (and approved) pet projects, even if it falls outside their assigned duties and tasks. Gmail started out as developer Paul Bucheit's 20 percent time project in the early 2000s, and by 2012 it was the largest email-based service in the world with 425 million users. Again it’s the idea that, given time and lacking constraints, employees allowed to pursue meaningful (to them) projects will produce something innovative—and profitable.
These examples illustrate that any attempt to inspire creativity in the workplace has to start by doing things a little differently, by removing the traditional limitations of the work environment. This can apply not only to the culture of the company, but to the physical component of the office itself. Let’s face it, there aren't many “Eureka!” stories of inspiration that take place in a cubicle. More often, the light bulb goes off during a private moment, as on a walk or in the shower. That’s not to say you need to install a shower at the office, but who’s to say you shouldn’t? Wouldn’t you rather work somewhere that at least considered the idea instead of one that would laugh off the suggestion without a thought?