The Creativity Budget
Updated: Apr 14
In almost every business book, you’ll hear the same phrases. They go a little something like this:
“innovation comes from the front-lines”
“inspire creativity in your workforce” and
“listen to what people have to offer.”
These clichés leave you with all the right desires and absolutely no action. If you’ve ever asked people to share their ideas, chances are you’ve experienced this ... crickets! You see, as a leader you are supposed to inspire them, and as a manager you are supposed to listen to them. But you can’t do either if people don’t have ideas or if they don’t want to tell you about them.
There is a lot of fear about sharing your ideas only to have them stolen. If you are fostering a workplace, there is undoubtedly some form of competition. Afterall, promotions, pay-raises, and pure office politics are a part of a lot of company cultures. In fact, according to Forbes, 65% of Americanswould forgo a raise to see their boss fired. Let me repeat that. 65% of Americans would forgo a raise to see their boss fired. Let that one sink in. This strategy isn’t for those leaders, this strategy is for the leaders that love their teams, want to inspire them and care about them as the person.
That’s why this little investment into them works. You can call it whatever you’d like, the creativity budget, the experimental budget, the inventive budget, or the interesting budget.
Here is how it works: You set a low budget and give each member of your team that amount in cold hard cash. I typically do $200, but depending on your team size and financial constraints, adjust the amount to fix your needs. Every quarter, each member of the team receives $200 to create, build, and do something epic with. At the end of the quarter, they have to share what they did with everyone on the team. This can be literally anything – from a personal hobby, to just something they thought was weird. The point is to find something that is interesting and pursue it. It’s a low-cost way to inspire and create without taking a huge risk and reaping the benefits of satisfaction, newfound discoveries and utilizing the team’s passions.
It’s important to have fun with it. Risk-taking is inherently scary. Providing a small budget and a time frame to do something risky without losing a sense of security in their jobs allows your team to connect more, innovate more, and collaborate. It also shows them that failing isn’t the worst thing you could do. In fact, not trying is the worst thing that you could do.
Three months later, you’ll get all kinds of wild and out there ideas: some will be goofy and silly, some will be interesting and some you will be able to implement into your business. As the leader, go into it with the sole objective of having fun, nothing else. It’s important to have this light-hearted joy, as you’ll find that having the most passionate people is far better than having the most intelligent people.