Practice Creativity to Inspire Creativity
Creativity, according to dictionary.com, is the “ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.” Creativity generates jobs, drives economic growth, and forges new industries. It’s a highly regarded skill, but often only attributed to entrepreneurs, innovators, and change makers.
A creative-minded team of brothers, David and Tom Kelley, would like to change that perception. David is the founder of the Stanford d.school and the well-known design firm IDEO, where Tom is a partner. They are authors of the book Creative Confidence, written in part “to help individuals and organizations unleash their full potential – and build their own creative confidence.” The Kelleys argue that everyone has a creative side, even those who claim not to, but not everyone has the courage to be creative. They believe that creativity can be nurtured and mastered, but that we are constrained by the fear of failing.
In the book, the Kelleys share a story about students in a pottery class who were divided into two equal groups. The first group was told they would be evaluated on the quality of a single clay pot at the end of the session, while the other group was told their evaluation would be based on the total number of pots they created. The students in the first group labored and researched to craft a single perfect pot. The students in the second group quickly crafted pot after pot after pot. At the end of the class, “the best pieces all came from the students whose goal was quantity, the ones who had spent the most time actually practicing their craft.”
Our takeaway from this tale is simply to get started. Create, create again, make a change, and create again…even if you fear you might not be ready. The authors recommend building a high tolerance for failure. They write, “If you want more success you have to be prepared to shrug off more failure.” The book emphasizes prototyping, iterating, getting user feedback early and frequently, and focusing on the people you are trying to help. InspiringApps believes in the practice of iterations and frequent user feedback. We’ve been following these principles in our work with customers for many years based on Eric Reis’ advice in Lean Startup. But we wanted to increase our focus on the people we are trying to help, in more creative ways, with the mobile apps we build. One way we decided we could better embrace our creative side was to change the way we complete our discovery process.
A discovery session is the first step in our development process, and it aims to understand the product vision through detailed discussions about the client’s idea and objectives. These sessions are typically led by a project manager and a designer. In a recent session, however, we chose to share the responsibility among the many talented people on our team. We held a discovery session for a client with five people on our team with varied backgrounds, skills, and experience. By tapping into the power of that diversity, we were able to come up with a creative solution that met our client’s objectives – a solution that likely would not have surfaced with only one or two people in the room. Instead of asking only our designers to handle what could be seen as the creative process, we shared that work and the outcome was better. By using the main principle from Creative Confidence, that everyone can be creative, our end result was stronger.
We are also interested in, and look forward to, using other tools in the book, specifically the tools that will help us to take action and craft our first of many clay pots. The authors state that creative people act upon their ideas to make them come to life and suggest some “action catalysts” such as:
Get help. Find someone to share the load and see what that person comes up with. We did this by including some team members not typically involved at the beginning of the process.
Gather an audience. Find someone to listen and speak your ideas out loud to get the creativity flowing. By having a bigger audience for our discovery process, the creativity flowed for much longer. Our scheduled 90-minute meeting stretched for an extra hour because we had so many good ideas to discuss.
Lower the stakes. Creativity halts when you believe that a decision is “so important that everything hinges on it.” Discuss as many ideas, good and bad, to spark new ones.
Creative Confidence also includes tips for sparking creativity when the ideas aren’t coming. These tips include empathizing with the end user, conducting field observations, and asking a series of “why” questions.
This book affirmed our belief that taking action early and iterating often is the key to high quality. Having opportunities to refine and make adjustments is far better than pouring everything into the “one shot” that success is riding on. The book also helped reinforce the fact that everyone on our team is creative and brings unique perspective to challenges we face. Tackling a new challenge with a diverse group of talented individuals is not only fun, it produces better results.
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Our culture is one of our most valuable assets. Fourteen years ago, we set out to create a safe, open environment for employees to grow and thrive. We committed to hiring a diverse staff that represented and embraced our core values, and we listened to them. This year, our work paid off with an official Great Places to Work ® Certification™ validated by our fabulous team. Strong company culture can give your company an advantage by fostering loyalty, creativity, and motivation. But what are the ingredients of positive company culture? In the past 14 years in business, InspiringApps has matured from a flat organization to one with an outstanding leadership team. In InspiringApps’ infancy, our culture was driven by the personalities of the relatively few people involved. But as the company grew, we were careful to emphasize the characteristics that fostered a positive work environment and eliminated any contrary to the things we’ve come to value— empathy, inclusion, and personal growth for our employees. It is much more challenging to make cultural changes with an existing team. So we aim to hire people who share those values from the start. What is Company Culture? Every company has a culture. While it may form organically, greater success will come from consistent cultivation. Intentional company culture combines organizational values and mission with the rewards of employment that come in four main categories: Loyalty-based, performance-based, opportunity-passed, and lifestyle-based. No style is better than the other; it’s dependent on the company and the employees hired. For instance, if your staff prefers lifestyle-based culture—flexible work or other perks—over performance-based culture, including raises and promotions for a job well done, the employees may stay dissatisfied and leave to find a company culture that suits their preference. The best cultures dovetail perfectly: employees and leaders focus on the same mission and encourage rewards. Discovering the perfect combination, however, doesn’t happen overnight. Why Do Your Employees Need an Intentional Company Culture? The job market is booming, with qualified candidates searching for a better way to spend their work hours. A recent survey found that 79% of employees who left their jobs did so because of a lack of appreciation, and 50% said they were more motivated by appreciation than money. This sounds like a job for company culture! In an ideal world, company culture and performance should work in tandem. Employees who are happy with their jobs have higher satisfaction rates. However, lousy work culture can hurt employees, bringing high turnover rates, burnout, and subpar work. Consistency and time are part of the formula for creating an intentional company culture. There’s no shortcut. Influential leaders seek to understand what employees appreciate, what causes them pain, hear their suggestions for improvement, follow through with promised changes, and repeat that process frequently. Intentional company culture benefits from open minds and a commitment from everyone, especially the leadership team. InspiringApps understands this fundamental truth and implements practices that demonstrate that. An InspiringApps employee explains it best: “I've never been part of a company or even heard of one that not only prioritizes production and quality for the client(s) but also functionality and comfortability of the work environment. InspiringApps has mastered the balance between keeping the clients happy and keeping the employees happy. For me personally, hours are flexible because of my schedule, and the entire team is always open to communication when I need assistance or have a question. My bosses check in on me to ensure I'm doing okay with my work even when I have not reached out for help. Every other employee and my bosses are truly excited to have me on the team, and make that clear to me everyday, which is why I feel so comfortable and open to expressing my thoughts and ideas on projects.” How to Develop and Maintain a Good Company Culture Engaged employees are critical for business success. Experience is the best teacher, and we’ve learned plenty of lessons regarding things that keep our employees a happy part of the team. We built our culture slowly and methodically over the past 14 years, and these are some of the most successful initiatives that have inspired more than 40% of our staff to stay with us for more than five years. Promote from Within Today’s employees are looking for a company with opportunities for career advancement and appreciate roles with a clear path to growth and promotions, as they give them personal goals to work towards. Along the employee journey, InspiringApps offers professional development opportunities that help our team stay on top of their skills, expand their capabilities and incorporate new and developing interests. By doing so, our employees are able to have long tenures at InspiringApps, while still remaining competitive. At the same time, we’re able to hire the best candidates for our growing positions, right from our own team. “I’ve been able to get help in building new skills, speak at conferences, and grow within the company throughout my time at InspiringApps,” said an InspiringApps employee. As the InspiringApps client roster scaled, so did our team. We promoted long-time employees into our development team lead roles, recognizing their wisdom and honoring their commitment to our team over their tenure. Offer Excellent Benefits Many start-ups, including InspiringApps, may be resource-constrained in the early days. Health and retirement benefits are expensive, so we focused first on benefits that didn’t require a direct cash outlay. Establishing a two-day-per-week remote work policy over a decade ago, accommodating part-time employees, and offering flexible work hours were all low-cost ways to treat our team with respect. “We’ve had a hybrid remote-work model for many years. Pre-pandemic, this was something that very few companies offered,” said an InspiringApps employee. “It was one of the reasons I chose this company.” As InspiringApps matured, we also added more traditional benefits. In addition to a 401k with match, profit sharing, and a generous and flexible PTO policy, we recently increased the company’s health premium contribution from 50% to 100% and added company-paid vision, dental, disability, and employee assistance (EAP). Be Inclusive Inclusivity is a mandate kept top-of-mind in the projects and clients we take on and the staff we hire and promote. In a historically homogenous industry like tech, inclusivity can be a challenge. Through intentional recruiting and a focus on providing opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups to join the field, InspiringApps is working to build a more diverse team that reflects the users we serve better. Promoting women in tech is one way we’ve made strides in our company. At InspiringApps, women make up 40% of our leadership team and more than a third of our employees—20% more than the U.S. average. Promoting diversity and inclusion provides various perspectives, which is essential for the challenges we’re addressing in our consumer apps. We consider it a competitive advantage as we continue to innovate for our clients. Additionally, we’ve made a concentrated effort over time to welcome new employees. Years ago that welcome included a team lunch on Pearl Street. Since our team has grown, that lunch is now digital – and the efforts to stay be inclusive extend much further than that. Communication and connection is ingrained into the way we set up projects, make progress on initiatives and more. Communicate Consistently Secrecy and unexplained decision-making from leaders lead to unengaged employees. Transparency is the name of the game. About 85% of employees are most motivated when they know what’s happening and why. “They place a great deal of trust in their employees,” said an InspiringApps employee. “Even to help make product decisions or suggestions to customers.” Open and frequent communication, including stand-ups and all-hands meetings, project or team demos, company newsletters, and social media, encourages employees to gain trust in leadership. Share company goals regularly so that your employees feel confident in knowing the direction they’re working. The more your employees see open communication from leaders and are encouraged to participate in decision making, the better communicators they’ll be with your clients, modeling the positive communication behaviors in everything they do. Technology is your friend when it comes to employee engagement—offering a Slack channel or other internal chat features, an employee app, or an intranet site where employees can share and talk directly to leaders can inspire a transparent culture. Conclusion We’re honored to be recognized as a Great Place to Work. But that recognition is only a small window into the little things that our team is doing every day to reinforce the culture we’ve been nurturing for years. It defines our expectations for the way we treat one another and anyone who interacts with InspiringApps. It certainly makes InspiringApps a pleasant place to work, but we think you’ll also see the results when you work with us and in the apps we create. Building award-winning apps starts with a language that’s foreign to many of us: code. For more than 14 years, our development team has built easy-to-use iOS, Android, and web applications for more than 100 companies in a dozen industries. See our work.
25 days ago
With technology and a collaborative spirit, a meaningful new brand is born. BOULDER, CO -- After nearly a decade and a half of the same look and feel, InspiringApps is glowing up–and it only took pivot to remote work for inspiration to strike. The company, an industry-leading web and mobile app and software solutions group headquartered in Boulder, officially launched an innovative new brand and website encompassing its roots and plans for the future. A Collaborative Innovation While some companies struggled to work collaboratively and adjust to the new reality of remote teams, the InspiringApps team took on the massive challenge to become more cohesive than before. “Emerging from over a year of pandemic isolation and recognizing that InspiringApps had used the same branding for over a decade, it was the perfect time for a change. Our teams are doing amazing work for start-ups and huge enterprises alike. I welcomed a fresh perspective on our logo and color schemes,” Brad Weber, founder and president of InspiringApps shared. InspiringApps’ new logo reflects the company’s collaborative nature, combining efforts from our UI/UX and marketing teams. “We collaborated a lot remotely; we had Slack open, cameras on, and worked from shared Adobe XD artboards, moving elements around while we discussed them. It was a powerful way to leverage technology for a smoother, more collaborative process,” Becca Collins, UI/UX designer, explains. “Somehow, working remotely with shared screens produced even better results than we could have achieved if we were in the same office,” Aaron Lea, Art Director, noted. A Meaningful Brand The team started with a concept that encapsulated the InspiringApps foundation: the original location in Boulder, Colorado, the code that developers use to build web and mobile apps, and the core values the team holds at the center of everything they do. Designers visually translated these elements into three simplified shapes: a triangle to encompass the mountainous Flatirons of Boulder, and a semicolon and less-than symbol representing code. Designers merged the three symbols into an abstract I and A–the company’s abbreviated initials–for a unique and meaningful new logo. Although the company leads with intentional design with clients, rapid growth brought an increased demand for the services and little time for internal branding. For several years, the original design established the InspiringApps brand, but that logo had limitations. “The logo served us well initially, but it was hard to work with. It was time for a change,” Aaron said. A newly designed dynamic website accompanied the brand’s unveiling. On the new site, visitors can find valuable resources and downloads, case studies, and advice for companies considering a mobile or web app. The site also includes case studies from past clients to inspire new ideas. “Our goal is to provide a design and web experience that reflects our mission and core values. We’re committed to putting just as much care and intention into your project as we did with our own,” Brad shared.
1 month ago