Business owners too commonly regard creative employees as a burden on the company’s financial performance. This focus overlooks the connection between properly managed creativity and the product inventions and innovations that drive sales and ultimately business success.
I’m a company founder and CEO, and an industrial designer by training. I am familiar with the value that the innovations of creative employees can bring to the bottom line. Much of the success of companies such as Apple derives from providing the right environment for creative employees. Their efforts and breakthroughs result in great products and ultimately business success.
So how does a company create the right environment for designers and other creatives? The key is to allow creatives to understand clearly how they can align their passions and talents to the company’s vision and mission. This is always a challenge, especially when, as in the case of BDI, the company relies on design innovations to familiar products to excite consumers and spur sales.
The following are six principles I use to guide my creative team and reap the business benefits of their best work.
1. Make creativity and innovation the top company focus. Even company employees outside of the creative department should know that creativity and innovation are the company’s highest priority. Make sure that everyone in top management is a champion of design.
At BDI one of our five core values is to be design driven. When a company lives this core value, many of the right decisions will follow that will nurture great design. Without this total commitment, companies will likely fail to drive great design and innovation.
2. Give innovators the tools they need to do their jobs. This means spending money on the right equipment and employees that are passionate about supporting the work of designers. Just as numbers people need computers, software and the right supporting team to do their job, creative people also need certain tools and a supportive team.
It may be expensive, but it is a sound investment in the future of the business.
3. Give creative teams the freedom to think outside the office. Most great ideas for new products or product updates are not found inside the four walls of an office. So don’t limit the team to innovating there. Encourage them to look for ideas in their personal lives, too.
Some of the best product innovations come right out of creative employees’ personal passions.
4. Make sure the creative team is attuned to other aspects of the business, so they see how it all comes together. In our case, we send our designers to the factory, so they can become familiar with the full lifecycle of product development, and see their ideas come to fruition. They also get a better understanding of what it takes to produce a viable product. This ultimately makes them better designers.
5. Be a leader in forward-thinking design, which puts you ahead of trends. Go for the timeless, not the latest fad. Look for the design principles behind what is trending now, and base your new products and design updates on what never goes out of style. This is the hard work that puts you at the forefront of your industry and keeps customers returning.
6. Give credit where it’s due every single time. There is nothing more demoralizing than not being recognized for your talent and contributions. Conversely, seeing your name associated with a new design, innovation or process is thrilling.
Celebrate your creative employees’ successes by name. It costs nothing and it motivates creative staff to work even harder. When they win, you business wins, too.
These principles are not cutting edge, but it does require an attitude and perspective that recognizes the business value of the creative mind and makes creative employees a top company priority. That may be a leap of faith for some executives, but it has been critical to the three decades of success for my business.
Related: How to Motivate Creative Employees