Support, don't punish

To even survive, let alone stay ahead, in today's landscape, where jobs and products can be outsourced or crowd-sourced at-a-click, businesses must build a culture that encourages creative thinking and problem solving. For Tank, thinking creatively is not just crucial, it’s everything. More than our driving force, creativity is life itself. In business terms, our creativity determines our bottom line.

Over 22 years, Tank has identified 10 practices that have helped us foster an environment of high-intensity creative thinking, from Monday morning to Friday afternoon (and sometimes on weekends too). 52 weeks a year. Every year. Here is how we do it.

  1. Seek out the motivated. Hire people who live and die by the quality of their work.
  2. Prioritize respect. Respect for each other, for our jobs, for our clients and for our home lives is a must.
  3. Reward effort first, results second — and make both a requirement. Delivering better results requires effort, and sometimes failure. Overcoming those failures is oftentimes the key to growth. And sometimes a failure is just what you need to inspire something even better.
  4. Welcome big, bad, crazy ideas. Safe ideas are safe because they’re familiar. To keep a creative edge, it’s essential to encourage the sharing of any and all ideas. And often a seemingly bad idea can spark something great from someone else. Once you’ve thrown everything at the wall, you can work together to explore the unexpected.
  5. Account for creativity early on, or pay dearly in the long run. Projects are like ships at sea, once they launch they must be provisioned properly or cannibalism will ensue. Any project must be scoped accurately, with sufficient resources — or it has no chance of succeeding. This is the reason we occasionally pass on great projects that are unrealistically funded or that we simply don’t have the capacity to handle.
  6. Design your teams based on expertise, not expediency. Sure, sometimes whoever is free has to be the one to solve a problem. But for most projects, a team should be assembled that brings the perfect blend of talent and know-how for the specific job at hand.
  7. Dream big while keeping your process fast-paced and dead simple with clear, near-term targets. We always strive to achieve ambitious goals — and we reach them by determining achievable, immediate milestones. From there, we attack with vigor, and evaluate progress. Then we repeat.
  8. Empower teams to reach beyond their comfort level so they own the results. Once a goal or direction is set, take your hands off the wheel and let the young guns have at it. If they get it, let them own the success (or failure) by acknowledging their effort and contribution.
  9. Design office space for communication and learning first, and comfort and style second. We like directors rubbing elbows with interns, in open, simple spaces. We like emerging neighborhoods where we can drink and eat well on the cheap after a long day. We like to pull up a stool and talk things out, face to face.
  10. Don’t be a jerk. This is the golden rule, really. To be, think, or do something creative means taking risks and inviting criticism. When you see this in others, encourage it. Support it. Whatever you do, don’t punish it. And you might just discover something magical together.