by Rob Joseph, Director, BeaconCFO Plus


You’ve probably seen more than one article describing the unique Google offices in major cities like NYC and San Francisco: Game rooms that are open all day. Massage chairs and sleep pods for naps. Free cafeterias with food prepared by VIP chefs. Long hallways lined with books and Legos. Every aspect of the office space is intended to foster the creativity and innovation of employees. 

That’s all fine and good for Google. But what about the rest of us? What if our offices are small and most of the team works in cubicles? Can we still encourage our employees to be creative and bring their ideas to the table?

We can, and here’s why: Creativity begins with culture. 

Teresa Amabile, a Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard Business School, published a widely cited article titled How to Kill Creativity.” Even though more than two decades have passed since it was published in 1998, her strategies and thinking will serve any corporate business leader today. She writes that in her experience, “Creativity gets killed much more often than it gets supported.” While managers value new ideas, they undermine creativity in environments designed to maximize productivity and coordination. You can’t throw your business operational needs to the wayside for the sake of creativity, but you can find a way to balance both goals.


Match your employees with the right assignments.

If an employee is well-matched to their role, they will be more engaged and challenged. An engaged employee is far more likely to be creative because they enjoy their work, not because they are being pressured or extrinsically motivated by a raise or bonus to complete a task. 


Give the entire team shared accountability.

Every single person that joins your team should know your organization’s objectives, core values, and areas of focus. These are parameters to guide their work. Within those parameters, allow them the flexibility and autonomy to do their work. 


Don’t kill ideas before they get off the ground.

As a CFO advisory business, we certainly understand the importance of budgets and deadlines. But if you get too in the weeds, you can inadvertently stop an idea in its tracks. Trust your hires to pursue new ideas and be accountable for monitoring their project’s timeframe and costs.


Encourage relationship building.

Sometimes getting out of the office and attending a conference can be energizing for an employee and spark new ideas. Make these opportunities happen when you can. Also encourage your internal team to grow in collaboration with one another. 


Have the mindset that there are no bad ideas.

Your employees must feel safe to speak up and share ideas in discussions—or they won’t. Remind yourself of the Alfred Hitchcock quote: Ideas come from everything. Perhaps an employee shares an idea that is not as relevant to the question at hand as someone else’s idea. But it may be remembered and referenced later on in another discussion. 


These recommendations are intended to get you started on the right path toward building an idea-friendly company culture at your organization. Keep in mind that a virtual CFO can become a key member of your team, contributing relevant ideas and new creative approaches to financial challenges. If you’re interested in our outsourced CFO services, please reach out at any time to learn more and speak to one of our CFOs.

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