It's okay to keep things small.
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 Eric Grosse, CEO and cofounder of Chairish.
When it comes to creative thinking and innovation, there are no magic wands or silver bullets. Innovators thrive on action, as there is no more powerful motivator than the prospect of turning a new idea into reality. I’ve found the following themes are a great way to foster an energized and innovative organization.
Create an inclusive culture
Senior leaders get the most out of their teams by setting goals and giving their teams latitude on how best to achieve them. Creativity, scrappiness, and collaborative persistence are the natural byproducts of this kind of a goal-oriented approach, where teams are encouraged and trusted to find innovative ways to accomplish business objectives. For example, Chairish’s development process encourages any engineer to propose and implement product changes that align with overall business goals. The potential for chaos is managed by a development process that culminates in a full-team peer review for every change. Chairish’s implementation of Apple Pay came about through this decentralized process, as our iOS lead championed and developed the design on his own. The result was one of the first working implementations of Apple Pay in the App Store that led to significant promotion of our app at launch.
Be flexible and responsive
Opportunities pop up unexpectedly and when they do, innovative teams are nimble and ready to adjust. At Chairish, we make heavy use of A/B testing to try out new concepts and roll out ones that work. When we first launched our “Make An Offer” feature, it was only available after a product was live on our site for seven days. We wanted to give the sellers the opportunity to capture the highest possible price for the item. We wanted to test this theory, so we took a risk and tried making that feature available immediately. The impact was significant. Not only did we maintain the same number of full-price purchases, but we vastly increased the number of transactions via Make An Offer.
It’s been said before, but failure truly is part of the creative process. Ideas that don’t work out can lead to exciting new directions. When Chairish first started, we needed listings so we offered a concierge-style service where we went to people’s homes, picked up their items, and housed them in a local warehouse. We achieved our goal of having product to sell, but the shipping, storage and onboarding process proved difficult to scale, so we moved away from that model early on. This experience inspired us to streamline our listings process and curatorial standards while still offering significant value to sellers.
Keep things small
Maintaining a creative culture and environment as a company grows is a vexing issue for any entrepreneur, including me. Left unchecked, size and bureaucracy can act as a wet blanket for innovation and slow a company’s ability to execute against its creative reservoir. I’ve found decentralization to be an effective counterforce to the organizational weight of success, enabling teams to stay small and focused on maintaining the innovative spirit that brought success in the first place.