creativity

Understand How You Work Best

Understanding How You Work Best

1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

Leadership doesn’t always mean leading others or directing or delegating. Leadership starts with leading yourself; things like time management, being honest about your responsibilities, putting in the extra time to refine your skills. Part of that is understanding how you work best. What is the optimal situation for you to create your best work most efficiently on a regular basis?

The book, Strength Finders, is built around the premise that your days are better spent amplifying your strengths and gifts versus toiling over your weaknesses. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule at a much more detailed level. If a tennis player’s backhand is a weakness it’s still going to need some work for that player to see success. That can’t be ignored. But if tennis is the athletes weakness and she’s naturally gifted at soccer, maybe her time is better spent there honing that craft.

As it goes with WHAT you work on, so it goes with HOW you work on it. Being in tune with the ideal situation required for you to produce your best work most efficiently will not only help you at that moment but could also help you to:

  • Improve energy and focus over a period of time (days/week)
  • Better communicate with your team and show empathy to how they best work
  • Make decisions on project timelines and assign personnel to tackle the right tasks at the right time

Outlining your best moments: create a Productivity Inventory.

Identifying certain high-level productivity traits comes naturally. It’s easy for most of us to say confidently, “I do my best writing in the mornings” or “my best creative work happens in the evenings when no one is around.” But how do we dig a little deeper? Like an elite athlete, how do we track and improve on specific areas impacting the quality of work we produce?

Self-Awareness is key. First create a checklist of your typical tasks and responsibilities. Now think back on two specific types of moments; one where you “felt in the zone,” felt productive, creative, firing on all cylinders and one where despite knowing exactly what needed done you struggled to stay focus and complete the necessary tasks.

Ask the following for each scenario:

  • What time of day was it?
  • Was there music playing, was it quiet or was there simply a mixture of background noises?
  • Were there people around or were you alone?
  • Were you at a desk or in an easy chair? At the office, at home or offsite someplace like a coffee shop?
  • Were you working under a tight deadline or working ahead of the game?
  • How much sleep did you get the night before?
  • Is there a connection to your diet / are you eating foods the promote brain energy?

Being honest (not feeling guilty) about how we work best can lead to improved individual and overall company efficiency. Things like understanding when you and your team need to walk away and take a break or what distractions you can schedule or avoid altogether gets you to better processes and better project management which in the end provides for a happier work environment and better work for your clients.

Tables and chairs

Keeping the Office Creative

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The ever changing landscape of business today is full of opportunity, risk, and the constant need to stand out in the crowd. Whether it’s a small business or a large corporation, the goal is the same: stay innovative and unique. This doesn’t only apply to products and services but also to problem solving techniques, new ways to increase productivity, and creating experiences that are fresh for both clients and employees. A company that is desirable to work for will result in a company that is desirable to work with. So how are companies staying innovative? By promoting creativity.

Creativity can be hard to sustain on a daily basis, but a good place to start is the environment where employees will be working every day. Looking at the offices of successful and creative companies, there are things they do that break the mold of a standard office building. The first thing you will notice is how open they are. While you may see desks with individual work spaces adorned by personal pictures and objects, the rows and rows of grey cubicles are nowhere to be found. Having open work areas promote communication, interaction and community which all lead to a more productive and social workforce. Fluorescent lit rooms used for one specific purpose are also not very conducive to a creative environment. Instead, there is a move towards open offices with a lot of natural light, color, and space.

An office is a reflection of the company and people who work in it. It is a reflection of the brand, culture, and work produced by the company. Having examples of work, indicators of a companies values, and items that reflect the brand are great ways to make the office more than just a place to clock in at the beginning of the day. Innovative companies are moving towards office-zones: spaces with different intentions. An area of movable and comfortable furniture promotes co-workers to work together, solve problems, and discuss ideas freely. Areas to write and doodle are also common in these areas. Whiteboards where people can ask questions, draw ideas and provide insight are all great ways to promote productivity and creativity. Other “zones” designated for employees to work in a quiet area without interruption are also great for individuals to get away from the more social parts of the office. While collaboration and conversation are great for inspiration, a place to focus on an idea is also necessary for it to come to fruition. The idea is to create an environment that creates a community of people who enjoy where they are, the people they are with, and what they do.

Aside from forming inspiring and inviting offices, companies are also providing employees with opportunities to grow and explore new ideas. These opportunities go beyond an occasional work trip, and occur much more frequently. Another reason they work is employees get paid while taking part in these activities. Here are three companies who have different approaches when it comes to allocating time to experiment.

3M

3M has been creating products we use on a daily basis since 1902, and now produces more than 55,000 products. Innovation has been key to their success and is the reason they have been able to continue to grow for over a hundred years. One of their ideas has been adopted by many tech companies today, including Google. 3M allows for employees to spend %15 of their time to create, experiment, and pursue their own ideas. This paid free-time has led to products that they still make today, including the Post-It Note. They feel it is well worth it to give employees this paid opportunity to pursue ideas, as it has led to thousands of patents and ideas from which the company has greatly benefited. The key to this free-time is to be supportive and open to new ideas.

Foursquare

Foursquare and their “Friday Afternoon Art Hour.” As it suggests, every friday at 5 p.m. a group of Foursquare employees gather for an hour. Each week someone purposes a new exercise, problem to solve, or a goal for the individuals to work on. They each spend a few minutes brainstorming, after which they draw their final solution. While the activities aren’t necessarily related to ways to improve Foursquare, they are a way to stretch the imagination and problem solve in a stress free environment. Besides, everyone is a little fried by the end of the week, and this gives them a chance to shake off responsibility and think outside of the box.

Google

It’d be near impossible to talk about innovative companies without bringing up Google at least once, for a variety of reasons. A company that started as a search engine has become one of the most innovative corporations in the world with recent releases such as Google Glass, Google Fiber and autonomous cars. One way they promote thinking outside of the box is a space that is accessible to all departments of the company, from legal to design. It’s called The Garage, and its sole purpose is to promote creativity. The name is an ode to Google’s roots, and the culture of silicon valley where start-ups are born in the garages of the next-big-thing’s home. The Garage’s main purpose is collaborative creativity and boasts everything from laser cutters to 3D printers so employees are able to create anything they think up. By making sure the space is flexible, accessible, and open to everyone, Google gives everyone a chance to contribute. In a sense it is an adult’s playground where teamwork leads to productivity.

While creativity and innovation can’t be taught, they can be given the chance to flourish. By creating an office with an environment that promotes free thinking, productivity and community, companies can be sure they have employees who want the company to grow. Secondly, companies who provide employees with the opportunity to grow as individuals will lead to creative thought, new ideas, and progress. The final part to ensuring innovation is by being open to new ideas and different ways of thinking as a whole. The ability to step back and approach ideas from a different angle will give a company the upper-hand on it’s competitors. Companies full of passion and creativity will be the companies with the brightest future.

Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary

laptop and notebok outside

Inspiration For Everyday Business

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It’s February. It’s down-right nasty outside. It’s still the beginning of the year so business is crazy. Considering all of this, it can be easy to fall into an inspirational slump. For us, creativity is at the forefront of what we do, so we have to fix this, stat. Last week we worked in a new office space for the day with color and creativity surrounding us and it was awesome. That space got me thinking; what are more ways to get out of the creativity slump in the bleak days of winter?

Switch it up.

The notebook you use, your regular schedule, the font you type in, the color of your nails. Simple changes, something new, can inspire you to switch it up mentally. Heck, even if there is something you really don’t like about your day, such as conference calls, make fun of it.

Have your meetings somewhere awesome.

We recommend gathering someplace where diversity and inspiration is around every corner. If you usually have your meetings in a small white room go crazy and have it at a cool space like this, or at a new coffee shop in town.

Focus on you.

It can be challenging to inspire a whole team, when all else fails, focus on inspiring yourself. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Catch a few Webinars or Podcasts for motivation. Doodle, even if its not good. When you are inspired it can catch like wildfire around the office. You can even do something great on the weekends like turn off your phone for a whole day (Say whatttt?!).

Do you have ways to stay inspired during the dull days of winter? Let us know.

Photo credit: David Joyce

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