Photograph by Raphye Alexius via Getty Images
By Brian Dainton
April 1, 2016

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 Brian Dainton, SVP of engineering at Spredfast.

By nature, our team is extraordinarily creative because we have no other choice. A lot of people see engineers as code delivery units — taking ideas on paper and turing them into reality. While this may be true, engineers are also frequently the source of creative solutions that many people might not even realize. At Spredfast, however, we put the “burden” of creativity on everyone — designers, product managers, engineers, etc. We implement this idea through our startup-like org structure and bi-annual Hackweek.

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Despite tremendous growth in recent years, we believe it’s important to maintain a start-up feel even as we continue to grow. Small, nimble teams naturally move faster than large, cumbersome ones. To help facilitate this culture of speed and autonomy, we’ve instilled a structure known as “DEPOT”: design, engineering, product, one team. When we begin developing a new product and/or offering, DEPOT establishes smaller teams that operate like mini-startups within the company. The designers, product managers, and engineers on each team maintain open communication across all departments, and ultimately, have the responsibility — like any real-world startup — to define and build what they believe to be the best customer-centric solution. With this structure, we have been able to successfully create more insightful, solution-driven products that are designed with the customer in mind — products that were purposefully created with contributions from every member of the team.

Additionally, twice a year, employees are invited to step away from the daily grind, and participate in our Hackweek. Meetings are cancelled and work is put on hold, as employees create teams based on their interests and ideas. The entire week is driven by a high-level mantra of “think big” and every year I’m amazed by the creativity that comes from within the organization. In the month leading up to Hackweek, we have a digital “idea wall” where everyone can post their potential projects. Then, we let the team loose and give them the latitude to pursue unbridled creativity. From this event, we’ve developed new products and features, like Intelligence, our social analytics tool. Our company sees the tremendous amount of creative value in hosting a Hackweek, so much so that we’re willing to close business for an entire week.

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