Harnessing people’s creativity

Harness the creativity of your team by giving them control over their work.

I recently employed a freelancer to make an instruction manual for a piece for furniture that I’m designing. I had employed them once before to make something for me, nothing big, but I liked their style.

I sketched a rough framework for them to tell them what I wanted. I asked them to follow it but told them they were free to change it and implement their own ideas as much as they like.

They sent me their work and the first draft was a better designed instruction manual than I could ever have come up with myself. They went on and beyond the instructions I provided and made something better.

I could have given them exact instructions, instead of explicitly stating that they were allowed to implement their own ideas. I would most likely have ended up with a result not as good as the one I got.

I was employed as a developer once at a company where the team was comprised of really smart and driven people. Much like any job, I learned a lot as a developer. However, my biggest learning experience was how to manage people.

As I got to know my colleagues I learned that almost everyone hated working there. The atmosphere was toxic and the company culture made people miserable.

At the heart of the issue were managers whose job it was to always know better. They had people implement their vision of solutions, which by itself is quite common. The bad part was that suggestions and ideas were almost always rejected, often without explanation.

It caused people to dislike working there and lose interest in their work. While working there I saw repeated cases of subpar work from people capable of much better. Since then it has resulted in high turnover of employees.

It made me realize how important it is to give people creative freedom to implement their own ideas. Let them make their work their own.

When you employ someone to do something for you, it’s usually because you don’t know how to do something or because you don’t have the time. If you employ smart, hard working people then letting them take ownership of the work you give them will almost always result in better work and a happier employee.

If you’re not willing to accept that people can know better than you and instead force them down a path to the exact solution you want by micromanaging them, you’re most likely wasting your time and shooting yourself in the foot at the same time.

Great products are built by great teams. Harness the creativity of your team by giving them control over their work.

Feel free to connect with me on Twitter or visit my website for more information about me.

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