I’ve had the chance in the last year of visiting three exceptional places that are famous for their degree of creativity and marketplace dominance, and I wanted to share come common traits that seemed to factor into their success.
The first is Weiden & Kennedy, perhaps the preeminent creative advertising agency in the world, where I had the good fortune of working on the Nike brand, among others. The second is Facebook and the final company is Google.
I walked away from these three experiences struck by several things that the leadership does in common in how they treat their employees. The focus of this treatment is not to indulge them, nor is it to ensure that they work longer hours, but rather to get the best from their people and it’s that focus that I think is absolutely determinative in the results they get.
1. CULTURE: They create a corporate culture that is fun and youthful, whether that means having a basketball courts, beach volleyball courts, video games, pool tables or table tennis tables on site.
2. HEALTH: They ensure their employees can exercise easily so they can bring their healthiest selves to work everyday. This means they provide a gym with everything you could need to train and get back to work. The employees can adjust their work schedules so that the office hours are flexible enough to accommodate the time schedule that works best for their employees. This means providing breakfast, lunch and dinner if need be.
3. HUMANITY: They recognize that their employees are human beings. For example, if someone has come back from a long meeting and is jet-lagged, they encourage them to go home to get some rest so they can recover rather than lose the next week through tiredness.
4. PERKS: They provide the occasional perks like massages so that employees can be at their best while at the office.
5. ACCESSIBILITY: In each case, the creative leaders of these companies get together with their employees and give opportunities to those employees to give feedback about everything from the softness of the toilet paper in the bathroom, through to the strategic direction of the brand over the next five years.
6. CREATIVITY: They inspire their creativity outside office work. Google is famous for its 20% rule where people are encourage to spend 20% of their time working on something they’re passionate about.
7. ENGAGEMENT: In each case, the leaders of the organization have attained an incredibly youthful and down to earth posture, where they make themselves available to all employees and all grievances, whether that’s through town hall meetings in the companies or an open door policy that makes people feel like they have permission to have a point of view on the future of the company.
8. CONTRIBUTION: Every single one of these companies makes a contribution to causes that are either specific to their region or to the values of the founder or boards, or to larger social issues that they have passion to address.
9. MAGNETISM: The only way to attract the top talent is to establish a reputation for creativity that would attract the top students and to ensure that your office is somewhere that people love to work so they actually want to come there. So rather than treating yourself as a destination that people must qualify for, make yourself a magnet for the top talent.
10. CURATION: Once you’ve done 1-9 above, it’s important to protect the culture that you have so carefully crafted, and the best way to ensure it’s continued growth and success is to ensure you hire people who will add value and longevity to that culture.
My experience at all three companies was enormously positive and inspiring, and it’s not surprising that such sustained creativity emerges from each place. While the US struggles economically, there is also an incredible class of companies that are breathing new life into innovation to maintain and build on their leadership positions. An incredibly important part of that is to ensure that you get the best, rather than the most from your people so that your company can reinvent their product category, industry, the marketplace or the economic health of the country at large. It all starts with the individuals who walk through your doors everyday and the culture you establish determines how far they will carry your company.
What do you think is the greatest obstacle to such initiatives in other companies? Do you believe it would inspire more creativity in your offices if they took a similar approach?