Not long ago, the concept of creativity was only associated with writers, musicians, artists, and designers. However, with the need to cultivate and offer a unique brand promise in a competitive market, creativity has transitioned from the arts into everyday business.
Creativity is defined as the mental characteristic that allows a person to think outside of the box, which results in innovative approaches to a particular task. Processes that foster employee innovation and engagement have had proven, tangible impacts on business success across the tech sector.
Popular approaches to fostering innovation
Popular approaches to fostering innovation through creativity include:
- Creating open work areas without physical barriers between people to improve communication and promote creative interaction.
- Rewarding effort and encouraging employees from all levels to contribute suggestions for improving products or business processes.
- Encouraging different points of view by inviting outside perspectives on products and services; soliciting customer opinion can provide valuable insight into strengths and weaknesses.
- Ensuring team leads manage the creative process by enabling interaction and discussion with team members and supporting an open exchange of ideas.
- Growing employees’ long-term stake in their company to encourage a willingness to take risks and come up with innovative solutions.
Research collated by the Harvard Business Review notes that benefits such as participation in corporate decision making, flexible working schedules, health benefits, and stock options increase the quality of innovation.
How Vista fosters creativity and innovation
At Vista, we encourage creative thinking and innovation. And while we’re still perfecting our strategies, one tradition that encourages our staff to think outside the square is the coveted Innovation Cup.
We encourage everyone at Vista to get involved in the Innovation Cup, working either in a team or individually on an idea that can add value to Vista — new products or features, new tools, new ways of working. Our people are given two days (sitting either side of a weekend) to work on their idea. This is where ideas turn into reality, prototypes are created, and masterpieces are built! At the end of the period, ideas are presented and judged. While this approach is not a new initiative — we liken it to our very own version of a Hackathon or FedEx Day — it is always a day that we look forward to participating in, whether watching or presenting ideas.
Our first Innovation Cup was held in 2011, with the intention and purpose of helping to keep staff engaged by giving them a clean slate and no (well, very few) rules. We recognize that there are times when it feels that our everyday work doesn’t really use all of our potential, or that the demands of a role can sometimes be monotonous. We wanted to give everyone an opportunity to tap into their creative side, be part of a self-conceived project, and work alongside others collaboratively. Encouraging employees this way showcases their skills, adding to a sense of fulfillment and achievement, all the while identifying problems and providing solutions for pain points in specific areas.
For some, the Innovation Cup is also a way to try another discipline (for example, we have testers who will take on development work). It’s important to note that we involve the entire office, enabling everyone to be involved in team building.
Vista’s success comes down to the people we have within our company and their collective contributions. We have a lot of bright minds working here — people who have lots of good ideas and explorative ways of thinking. It’s crucial for us to make sure we nurture, respect, and celebrate what they have to offer.
Those who opt to work in the technology industry tend to have three main motivators (before monetary incentives). These are:
- Mastery: learning and becoming the best possible.
- Purpose: contributing to the creation of something that makes an impact, that is useful, and that adds value.
- Autonomy: being trusted to make smart decisions.
The Innovation Cup is a way to satisfy these needs, to experiment with new technology, learn new practices, and make new project decisions.
Ideas that surface during the competition often result in functionality that appears in our software or in-house processes. We see a lot of amazing suggestions that have ranged from a Windows 8 customer service kiosk app and a film performance analysis engine, to a pick and mix HR staff benefits tool and a professional development and mentoring program. A crowd pleaser this year was the Vista Barista (or Barvista) app, which would enable staff to gift and order coffee from their mobile while gaining loyalty points and visibility of purchase history (which may or may not be viewed as a good thing!). It also integrated with our Vista blog, so people could stay up-to-date with our company news. Vista's Mobile Brander, the winning idea from our previous Innovation Cup, has now been rolled out into production. The design enables customers to simply upload their company logos and select their preferred Vista Mobile system settings to customize app functionality. Mobile Brander will automatically create a cinema-specific branded build of Vista Mobile, providing customers with a faster and more efficient build process.
The benefits of supporting innovation
A recent article published by Wired discussed the rewards of an innovative environment in detail:
Looking at the companies and organizations that are considered successful in innovation (Google, Apple, Tesla, Facebook), we see some common behaviors and environments. The first is the culture of cerebration, of promoting employees to share and internally market their ideas and projects. But all of these companies have also created a corporate culture that recognizes the value and the opportunity of cerebration. They have created a system that operates both as a business, and as an idea factory. We learned that the only way for businesses to consistently succeed today is to attract smart creative employees and create an environment where they can thrive at scale.
Innovation enables businesses to discover what opportunities exist now or are likely to emerge in the future. Companies that tend to be successful in the current environment not only respond to customer or organizational needs, but often anticipate future trends and develop an idea, product, or service that allows them to meet future demand rapidly and effectively. Innovation helps you to stay ahead of your competition as markets, technologies, or trends shift.