This article comes from Entrepreneur.
Just as people, plants, and animals require certain conditions to grow and thrive, so do teams. Cover these basics, and your teams will be well-equipped to work in creative harmony.
Software developers often joke about running on coffee and pizza, but teams need exciting problems to solve. Challenge is a form of nourishment that gets many employees out of bed in the morning. “Creative people work for the love of a challenge,” researcher Richard Florida and SAS CEO Jim Goodnight write in Harvard Business Review. “They crave the feeling of accomplishment that comes from cracking a riddle, be it technological, artistic, social, or logistical. They want to do good work.”
In his 2004 book, The Rise of The Creative Class, Florida cites an Information Week survey that polled 20,000 IT workers. When asked, “what matters most to you about your job?” an overwhelming majority chose the “challenge of job/responsibility,” followed by flexibility and job stability. Salary or financial compensation ranked a distant fourth.
If you have the resources, you might want to literally feed your employees well, too. We’ve all heard about the well-stocked fridges at tech giants like Google and Facebook, but according to Chicago Tribune reporter James Daly, more companies are now engaging “dietary interventionists” to create healthy eating programs in their kitchens and cafeterias.
At JotForm, we’ve brought in a chef who makes healthy lunchtime salads with oil from my family’s olive trees. Our employees love them, and we’ve all found that we don’t have a post-lunch energy crash when we fill up on fresh vegetables.
We all crave freedom, in work and life. In fact, autonomy is a core human need – and research across multiple fields shows that employees who have more autonomy at work are happier, healthier, and more productive. Team members working in autonomous groups also feel less “emotional exhaustion” and engage in more active learning.
Our cross-functional product teams have considerable freedom. We assign projects, but each group is free to decide how they’ll tackle problems and develop solutions. Ultimately, autonomy is a form of trust: we trust our teams, and they repay that trust with strategic, creative work.
In the book Creativity, Inc., former Pixar CEO Ed Catmull takes readers inside the famous animation studio and explains how the company thinks about team creativity. “The antidote to fear is trust, and we all have a desire to find something to trust in an uncertain world,” writes Catmull and Amy Wallace. “Fear and trust are powerful forces, and while they are not opposites, exactly, trust is the best tool for driving out fear.”
Starting a business can be scary. Creative problem-solving can also induce fear – from fear of failure to concerns about letting down bosses, customers, and even investors. But trust can inoculate teams against those gnawing fears, and providing autonomy is just one way to demonstrate real trust.