5 Philosophies To Keep Creative Minds Clicking

Creativity is tough to come by, so we want to make sure it flows as easily as possible. LifeKraze CEO Ben Wagner explains a few of his team's secrets for keeping those inspired juices flowing.

The LifeKraze team consists of software developers and designers working alongside sales and biz dev, so we've had to adopt schedules--not to mention best practices--that work for all of us. The 9-to-5 model isn’t us, because sometimes we have to be 24/7.

Some teammates work until 4 a.m. and others show up at 7 a.m. Some people rock sandals all year while others are blazer-wearing business mavericks. And just the other week, some guy boiled peanuts in the office.

With all these contrasting styles and mindsets, we work hard to get everyone on the team on the same page and in delivering their best. Here are the philosophies we've found help get our minds in the right place to think creatively.

1. Talk and be silent.

We've done a lot to ensure our personal interactions are frequent but you can only organize so much when it comes to this. Having a team that gels together results in a talkative culture, which is great for bringing creative ideas to life.

You want a team that wants to talk and interact with each other. However, you don't want it to get to a point where workflow is constantly interrupted. I say this as an offender myself. While I get frustrated when somebody bugs me in the middle of something, I have done the same thing to them when I'm finished with my task and ready to talk.

We tried doing quiet hours for a little while, which didn't work out so well. Now we hold headphone-wearing as the universal sign for Do Not Disturb. Locking yourself in the conference room or posting up off-site are also useful tactics.

2. Mix things up.

One thing I try to do in my life is create good habits without sticking to the same routine. I love to run but will always try to switch things up from attire to terrain and from distance to pace. This helps keep things interesting and keeps my mind alert.

We've drawn on our walls, used plants as stand-ins for absent team members, read children's books to open all-hands meetings, gone on team trips, and we even switched offices to keep it fresh.

Mixing it up is vital to keeping engagement high. Even if you’re super passionate about your work and your team, parts of your job can be a drag, and having fresh challenges to take on or a helping hand with your current challenge is a great way to learn and re-energize your batteries.

3. Flex your schedules.

We want people to work when they're at their best because we want their best work. This means if your coding or writing is topnotch on Tuesday nights at 3 a.m., we want you to work then. If you work better from the conference room or the coffee shop across the street, we want you to work there.

We value results highly and to achieve results, sometimes our team members are asked to work 12 hours some days; other days they might work just a few focused hours.

Know the conditions in which you and your team operate best and replicate them as often as necessary.

4. Brain magic in intervals.

Sometimes working in spurts is the way to go. Recently, our development team went into all-out, lock-down, Red Bull-chugging mode--they were in the zone and cranking out all sorts of magic. Once we exceeded our goals as a team, though, we slowed it down for a bit so we'd be ready to turn it back up.

Cruise control can be useful but can also be dangerous if it lulls you to sleep. Going from 20-to-80-to-20 and back to 80 is an effective way to do focused work.

5. Work it out.

When you're running a startup you're working with a team you care about, but it can be hard to balance work and life. On the one hand that's great, because you can constantly problem-solve and be thinking about how to improve. On the other hand, that can be stressful and we need to unplug.

We've found that workouts can be a great way to help think things through and refresh the mind. We've done office yoga sessions, gone to team interval workouts, experimented with stand-up paddle boarding, but for many of us we just make a habit of playing soccer or basketball a couple nights a week. We often say that a team that works out together, works well together.

--Ben Wagner is the CEO of LifeKraze, an iPhone app, Android app and website that operates as a rewards program for life, encouraging people to live like it counts.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization composed of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

[Image: Flickr user Kathryn Denman]

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3 Comments

  • T

    Anyone who talks about "best practices" is not a "creative." Anyone who calls themselves a "creative" is probably not that creative. Not sure what the CEO of an app wrote an article on "keeping creative juices flowing."

  • Ara ohanian

    Ben, great article!
    As companies grow it’s easy for creativity to be smothered. My tip for maintaining creativity while building a successful international technology company? Set the parameters for your team. Not the processes. Tell them where they need to get to, give them the support they need and then get out of the way – creativity will flow and productivity will follow.