The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization? is written by Rod Drury, CEO at Xero.
Accountants often get an unfair rap for being quiet and mundane folks. It’s one of those stereotypes that couldn’t be further from the truth. When we launched cloud accounting software company, Xero — almost ten years ago — it was our goal to break that mold by giving accountants, bookkeepers, and tax preparers the beautiful work experience they deserved. It was something that had never been done before. The desktop solutions these professionals were using were dull. To brighten up and delight the accounting world, we had to enlist the help of designers, developers, and marketers to work on a very different solution.
But with talent wars raging right across the SaaS space, we had to truly encourage a culture steeped in creative thinking and challenging the status quo, in order to lure the right people to what was our once scrappy startup. Building an organization based on challenging norms and doing beautiful work hasn’t been easy. Even today, as we’ve blossomed into a 1,300+ person growth company, we have to repeatedly check back in with our mission and values to ensure we’re staying the course. To continue to innovate, you have to build a workplace that looks at problems from various angles. Here are a few things that we do at Xero to ensure creativity:
Hire a diverse team
We purposely develop teams across continents and fill them with the smartest people we can find. As a result, our squads are brimming with various perspectives, all challenging each other on what the best solution is for the customer. And the solutions they come up with still blows my mind. More often than not, it’s completely beyond what I was expecting — and usually much cooler.
Cut the hierarchy
Building multi-functional teams with a flat structure helps employees cross-pollinate ideas. Our product development teams don’t just consist of traditional developers, they’re packed with designers, marketers, and people with customer service backgrounds. Our teams are also designed so they have to interact with one another. It’s about getting the most comprehensive perspective on what we’re working on so the solution we ship is thoughtful. By cutting out the hierarchy in this process, ideas can be run right across the company. People from all over the organization know they can email anyone with an idea, regardless of their title.
Get away from your desk
We design our offices with plenty of varied spaces. Teams can meet outside on sunny terraces, inside on couches, or in meeting rooms surrounded by walls they can scribble all over. Having a variety of interesting spaces helps get the creative juices flowing.
Work from anywhere
While our offices are geared up for caffeine-fueled brainstorming sessions, for true creativity, sometimes it’s best to get outside and away from work. Getting some perspective on what you’re working on can really change the way you tackle the problem. All our staff are geared up with cloud-based apps like Google for Work, and other mobile technologies. As long as they’re connected to the internet, they can work from almost anywhere. By building flexibility into your organization, you naturally promote creativity.