Forget About the Lone Creative Genius

emily dickinson social creativity

At the design firm IDEO, you have to be cooperative or you won’t survive.

Engineer and designer Jimmy Chion, for example, spent his first few months at IDEO going from designing “futuristic interactions inside a car to working at a handbag manufacturer to make a purse for London Fashion Week.”

Who you work with changes all the time as well. While teams generally exist for a few months, you could be together for as little as two weeks or as long as a year, depending on the project. To add to the flux, as Jimmy told me, “every team basically starts from scratch every single time,” collectively deciding what tools and processes to use.

Creativity is a quality mostly equated with individuality. Yet IDEO has to constantly corral extremely creative people into shifting configurations to deal with different clients and projects. “Everyone here is really versatile in the way they work. You have to be — you’re not on any same project twice,” explains Jimmy. Everyone at IDEO can work with everybody else at IDEO, which is the cool part.”

Understandably, that means they’re not looking for lone creative geniuses at IDEO. Instead, what one of the most creative companies in the world hires for is the ability to collaborate.

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A Winning Formula for Building Successful Teams

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You need great teams in order to build great products. The way engineering director Rich Paret creates such teams at the Twitter-acquired Crashlytics — which provides mobile crash reporting — is to “hire for the culture you have, and the culture you want to have.”

The company culture at Crashlytics isn’t a collection of perks or a bunch of abstract values. It’s how people get stuff done together. When we visited Rich at Twitter Boston this past May, he emphasized how it’s the quality of a team’s communication that determines its outcomes.

How does a project become late?” he asked. As our minds ran through various scenarios and the complexities of managing a team, he broke our pondering pause with his simple answer — “Day by day.” Just as you can build meaningful progress day by day, you can also increasingly get off track to the point of failure. Communication losses accumulate, a slow but steady snowball, as the days roll by, when you’re not careful.

Consider the distribution and flow of information within a company. Too often knowledge is guarded amongst the people at the top, or cooped up in people’s heads, or trapped in silos. What happens then? As Rich puts it, islands of information” emerge. When different people know different pieces of information, it becomes progressively harder to reach across the waters just to know where the puzzle pieces are, let alone put the puzzle together.

One approach to avoiding islands and fostering a bridging, communicative culture is to hire smart and work smart. When you align people and process, you ultimately create strong values, culture, and behaviors.  Here’s a look at Rich’s formula for building awesome teams and in doing so, awesome company culture:

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7 Essential Online Business Tools that Power You Forward

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As a distributed team, we find online business tools indispensable because we rely on them so heavily to collaborate and create our collective office space in the cloud. We know the beating heart of running a successful business is successful communication internally as a team and externally with our customers — and without helpful tools, we can’t connect.

We’ve rounded up our seven favorite business tools that keep us moving forward. What these seven business tools have in common is that they’re easy to use and responsive to our needs. And when business tools can evolve as we evolve while retaining their simplicity and effectiveness, they have great staying power.

Here’s the quick list:

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Why Teams with Time Style Diversity Are Stronger

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When it comes to teams, difference is good. If we were all the same, we might as well be replaced with a bunch of robots.

If a team doesn’t come to conflict, it seldom reaches its potential. Without conflict, teams become stagnant, which affects overall morale, productivity and frankly, your bottom line.

Here are a couple quick reasons how contrasting working styles can be an advantage:

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Why You Should Stop Keeping Score at Work

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There’s probably been some time in your life when you’ve been just a touch surprised that you haven’t been hoisted upon shoulders and celebrated with cheers for your great achievement — whether you go as far back as that group English assignment making a diorama about summer reading or yesterday’s big client presentation.

Or maybe you’re more familiar with that fake almost-smile, as Joe Shmoe stood up to cheers and beers and pats on the back, leaving you amidst the ghosts of the hours of sweat and tears you put into the work.

It happens, and it stinks. But then again — we’re actually all credit hogs in our heads.

When you’re on a team, you don’t have an accurate sense of the proportion of your contribution. It’s just not that straightforward, because what happens in your very smart but usually selfish mind is that you underestimate your teammates’ contributions and overestimate yours.

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Prevent Burnout: The Best of the Internet

seems impossible

Happy Friday! Catch up with the best of what we’ve shared on the interwebs this week! 

How the Buffer team uses iDoneThis to build a truly transparent company.

8 Awesome Tech & Startup Newsletters You Should Be Reading

Email is people.

One way to prevent burnout – the done list.

How to build a collaborative space like Pixar and Google.

imageDundee’s Tip of the Week: Find out how to feed what you get done in Trello, Evernote, Github, and Google Calendar to iDoneThis with Zapier!

 

7 Invaluable Collaboration and Communication Tools for Remote Teams

Recently, an internal memo from Yahoo announcing a ban on working from home has sparked a feisty debate about the merits of working remotely. The explanation given for the policy change comes down to one sentence in the memo: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.”

As a distributed team ourselves, serving many great companies with flexible work arrangements, we don’t think people’s physical presence in one place is necessary to create the best workplace or the best work. Where we do agree with Yahoo is how vital communication and collaboration are to a company’s success.

The nature of remote work actually compels companies to grapple with and figure out how people communicate and collaborate best. Fortunately, connection and communication are what technology and the web have made so much easier. Finding the right communication tools becomes even more pressing for distributed companies since that toolbox helps create our shared space.

As a follow-up to our ode to distributed companies, we thought we’d share what communication tools we use to stay connected, creative, and collaborative together. These communication tools are great not just for managing remote workers but for any teams, since no matter the physical working arrangement, strong team connection and communication are key to accountability, productivity, and innovation and great customer service.

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Autonomy, Achievements and Awesomness: The Best of the Internet

It’s been a tough week for those of us in Sandy’s path. Our best wishes to those dealing with the aftermath! Be safe! 

Now, catch up with the best of the stuff we’ve shared this past week!

We visually visited 10 awesome startups. Check out the pics of some cool company culture!

Our very own Ginni Chen wrote a guest post for Women 2.0 about how successful women share their accomplishments.

Employees are happier when they’re trusted to exercise autonomy.

How virtual teams collaborate.

The only purpose of customer service is to change feelings.

Entrepreneurs should take the lead in building sustainable startup communities.

Collaboration is Noisy

When did work become so noisy?

I don’t just mean the ambient noise, that clickity-clackity typing, strangely noticeable chewing, annoying finger tapping, and chit-chatting hubbub of an open floor plan office. I’m also talking about the information and social inundation invading our work life, the buzzes and pings, the tweets and likes, the emails and comments, the meetings and chats.

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Our notion of productivity has become imbalanced toward focusing on the inbox of our thought process — input, information, inspiration. I can feel productive after scanning tweets, reading articles, even having an inspiring conversation, but if I don’t take time to think and process, if I don’t actually turn the input into something, that feeling is illusory.

Ultimately, productivity requires producing, creativity creating. It sounds so simple and obvious, but it has been easy to forget these days that we need solitude, quiet and time.

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