By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC
Steve Jobs challenged employees at Apple to "think different." His message spread beyond Apple's walled garden, inspiring app developers, product designers and software integrators who drive payments industry innovation. Their solutions are helping merchant level salespeople (MLSs) solve their customers' challenges and differentiate from their competition.
Creative people are the heartbeat of payments. If you're lucky enough to work with them, you will find them entertaining, funny and compassionate. They live in an alternate universe, where ideas are the primary currency. They are fascinated by things that others take for granted. It's in their DNA to challenge the status quo and question the way things are done.
Here are five rules of engagement for working with creative people and creating workplace environments that foster creativity and innovation, where they can do their best work.
Rule 1: Relax the dress code: Whether they work in messy conditions, making models out of wood and clay or spend long hours in front of screens, creative workers tend to be happier and more productive when uninhibited by dress codes.
Wearing a T-shirt, jeans and hoodie every day frees Mark Zuckerberg from having to make wardrobe choices and gives him more time to think about Facebook. Heather Shimokawa, Fashion Market Director for Menswear at Vanity Fair, said her everyday look gives her more time to work on important things, like rebuilding Haiti.
"I like a uniform," Shimokawa stated in a Bloomingdales interview. "There is a power in knowing exactly what you like and a freedom to never having to think about what to wear. A black jacket, perfect white tee, a great pair of jeans . . . what else do you need?"
Rule 2: Provide flexible hours: Creative workers tend to be happier and more productive when they have flexible work schedules and can occasionally work from home. Having this latitude enables them to work at peak performance times, leveraging their biorhythms and optimizing performance. It also gives them the freedom to meet deadlines and production schedules from anywhere.
Rule 3: Create unstructured workplaces: Creative people are generally happier and more industrious in unstructured environments where they can move around freely and balance group interaction with solitude. Some can tune out background noise when they are coding or designing; others need to retreat to a quiet place where they are free from distractions.
Google balances open workspaces with small offices and pod-like structures, to enable Googlers to work alone and quickly assemble into teams. On a recent visit to Google's New York offices, I watched an engineer bounce off the walls. He seemed agitated. When he took a break, I asked if he was okay. "It's all good," he said. "I'm coding."
Rule 4: Offer constructive criticism: Creative people tend to be passionate about their work; many view their creations as extensions of themselves. Employers, managers and coworkers need to be considerate when evaluating work assignments with creative teams. It's best to begin feedback with a positive observation or comment. Select something notable about someone's contribution, even if it's only the amount of time and effort the individual put into the project. Opening the discussion with appreciation will get everyone on the same page and set the stage for a productive discussion.
Rule 5: Keep an open mind: Creative people think differently and constantly ask "what if?" While their ideas may seem far-fetched or impossible, it's important to remain receptive and non-judgmental to the possibilities they present. This concept became a key takeaway for Gianni Del Vecchio, President and co-founder of Klear Technologies Inc., when Klear partner and co-founder Scott Hazard proposed creating a transparent ATM.
"I initially thought Scott's idea for a glass ATM was nuts," Del Vecchio said. "But you don't say no to someone who has worked at Google and Apple; I've learned to keep an open mind."
"I wanted to bring beauty back, with transparent ATMs like penny-stamper machines," Hazard added. "I want the glass walls covered with kids' fingerprints, future engineers who want to know how things work."
Dale S. Laszig, Senior Staff Writer at The Green Sheet and Managing Director at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content provider. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @DSLdirect.
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