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The art of cultivating a creative workforce

Whether you are a technology giant or a brand new, struggling start-up, fostering innovation in your team is crucial. Business Insider recently ran a piece on the extraordinary (and often unconventional) lengths that technology companies will go to in order to encourage creativity and flexibility in their staff. One common theme was providing staff with opportunities to learn about new areas, develop new skills, and therefore apply fresh perspectives to their work. Below are three well known firms who grant their teams exceptional freedom to pursue their own interests.

1. Google

Inspired by 3M’s “15 percent time” (which resulted in Art Fry inventing the Post It Note), Google have made “20 percent time” a perk for their engineers, who can spend up to 20% of their working week working on creative side projects. Giving your team the space to flex their creative muscles independently can certainly pay dividends; Gmail originated as a “20 percent time” initiative.

Another huge benefit to working at Google is the Google Talks programme, which invites artists, designers, authors and other public figures to deliver presentations. These lectures are shared on YouTube, and reportedly “keep [people’s] brains learning, growing and thinking.” High profile guest speakers include Anderson Cooper, Conan O’Brian, the cast of popular sitcom Parks & Recreation, and Lady Gaga.

2. Microsoft

Microsoft has leveraged its origins into a source of inspiration by transforming Bill Gates’ old office into an Aladdin’s cave of gadgets and high-tech wizardy nicknamed “The Garage”. The company also puts on grown-up “science fairs”, where staff can showcase projects that they’ve been working on in their own time to the entire company.

3. Sagmeister & Walsh

This New York based design studio arguably goes the furthest when it comes to cultivating creativity. Stefan Sagmeister closes the firm down every seven years and gives all of his employees an entire year off. The aim of this sabbatical is to enable the team to explore new things and return to work reinvigorated. If nothing else, this unique approach certainly promotes a relaxed working atmosphere – the Sagmeister & Walsh staff are known for posing naked in their official company photos.

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