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4 Ways to Foster a Creative Culture in a Hybrid Work Environment: Show Notes & Transcript

Post | Apr 11, 2023

Welcome back to Marketing Smarts! From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini (that’s us) comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. We deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from our combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. We tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

In this episode, we’re talking how to foster a creative culture in a hybrid work environment. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and your other favorite podcast spots – follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re exercising your Marketing Smarts!

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Marketing Smarts: 4 Ways to Foster a Creative Culture in a Hybrid Work Environment

Do you need to have an in-person office to have a creative culture? We think not. In fact, we believe a hybrid work environment may just be the best way to stimulate creativity. Foster a creative culture in a hybrid work environment by creating channels and forums for ongoing creative downloads, soliciting creative insights and ideas, forming creativity pods, and realizing the creative process starts with management. Now, go create that culture that elicits creativity. This episode covers everything from hybrid work to creativity. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • How do you foster a creative culture in a hybrid work environment?
  • What did Bob Iger get wrong about returning employees to the office?
  • How do you create channels and forums for ongoing creative downloads?
  • What tools are available for creative collaboration?
  • How do you solicit creative insights and ideas?
  • What are creativity pods?
  • Why should management be accountable for actioning the creative process?
  • How does Kendra Scott create such an incredible brand and retail experience?

And as always, if you need help in building your Marketing Smarts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at:

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below:

Show Notes

What is Marketing Smarts?

From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. They deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from their combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. They tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

How do I exercise my Marketing Smarts?

Thanks for listening to Marketing Smarts. Get in touch here to become a savvier marketer. 


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Anne Candido 0:02
This is Marketing Smarts – a podcast committed to helping you become a savvier marketing leader, no matter your level. In each episode, we will dive into a relevant topic or challenge marketing leaders are currently facing. We will also give you practical tools and applications that will help you put what you learn into practice today. And if you missed anything, don’t worry, we put worksheets on our website that summarize the key points. Now, let’s get to it. Welcome to Marketing Smarts! I’m Anne Candido.

April Martini 0:32
And I am April Martini.

Anne Candido 0:33
And today, we’re going to talk about how to foster a creative culture in a hybrid work environment. This episode is motivated by the dilemma many of you are having about whether you should be calling hybrid workers back into the office in order to restore a creative culture. Most notable is Bob Iger of Disney, who according to a CNBC article said that “Hybrid employees must return to the office four days a week starting March 1.” His rationale is quite interesting. He says, “As I’ve been meeting with teams throughout the company, over the past few months, I’ve been reminded of the tremendous value of being together with the people you work with, as you’ve heard me say many times, creativity is the heart and soul of who we are, and what we do at Disney. In a creative business like ours, nothing can replace the ability to connect, observe and create with peers that comes from being physically together, nor the opportunity to grow professionally by learning from leaders and mentors.”

April Martini 1:24
Yes, and we’re going to be so bold as to say we disagree with this, because it’s based on the assumption that creativity is stimulated from interaction or a collaborative energy by being physically in the same space. But what we actually believe is that creativity is stimulated by creating a culture that then elicits creativity, which is really location agnostic, and actually can be better accomplished when individuals are in a space that they feel they can be creative. And in fact, hybrid work environments may actually foster creativity even more. So for this very reason. Yeah, agreed.

Anne Candido 2:00
And so for those of you who are still in and want to remain in a hybrid work environment, you actually may be in a better position to stimulate creativity. But we know many of you have anxiety over the logistical challenges of the virtual environment. So we’re going to address those today and how to foster a creative culture even in a hybrid work environment. All right. So the first point of this, create channels and forums for ongoing creative downloads. So Bob’s assumption that as April mentioned that more people are creative when together is a common one. And I saw that a lot in my 20 plus years at P&G, and now even my four years of consulting with other companies, but we would say that this is not the case when actually observed in practice. So these assumptions that impromptu discussions lead to big ideas are that the convenience of pulling Bob and Jenny into a huddle room to hash out a challenge? That was like always the big thing right at P&G, that to be confused with Bob Iger, just a general Bob? Oh, just a general Bob think, yeah, maybe I should have picked a different name in a general sense. So thank you for clarifying that. But we believe that in somehow like that physical presence and knows, like, bumping into each other, and somehow that kind of creates a spark of breakthrough, that isn’t the case. In fact, many will claimed that such interactions are actually big distractions, and a time when people aren’t actually in the space to be creative anyway, right. So you’re kind of forcing the situation to happen. And the counter to this is to create channels and forums for people to actually download creative ideas when they’re in the space to be creative. And when people are in the space to receive them. Because like I said, trying to force people together and thinking, you’re going to put these two people together, and all of a sudden, it’ll be a spark of creativity. It doesn’t actually work like that, based on our experience, and what we’ve observed. So the underlying truth for making this happen is that the culture supports divergent thinking that challenging ideas, what if scenarios, if your culture isn’t like this, being in person isn’t going to change anything, it just not going to all of a sudden kind of become like that, you have to foster that. So on the flip side, then, if your culture is like this, if you are challenging ideas, if you do encourage divergent thinking, if you are going through the what if scenario processing, virtual connection shouldn’t impede that. So there’s no reason why the physical presence should in any way perpetuate it, and just by the virtue of being in together in person. So the common question then becomes, well, what are some specific ways in order to do this and so I’m going to give you some specific channels and forms that we have seen work. One is to set up a Slack channel or whatever your method of communication is, we like Slack, but use whatever is convenient for you. So set up a channel like Slack, something that’s titled what’s on your mind. Okay, so it’s just a way for people to have like a download or a dump whenever there’s something that kind of comes up ideas or thoughts that are starting to kind of like, kind of just kind of like roll around in their brain, right, and they just need a place to put them. But the key here is to make sure that channel is moderated to facilitate that conversation idea generation. And most importantly, action. This is not where ideas go to die, okay? It needs to actually be fueled. And it has to be you have to take care with people’s ideas. Yeah. And that moderation piece is so key, because the last thing you want is people putting things out there and not getting a response, they’ll get discouraged, they’ll get in their head, it’ll be a distraction. So the opposite of what you want this channel to actually serve. Right, and we’re gonna talk about that later. Because I think that’s a really good point. Another one is, if you want something a little bit more kind of just one way where you don’t want to facilitate the interaction so much, you can use an email address or a phone number. I’ve seen these work where people just can call submit ideas like they’re on their way home, it’s like how I had this idea. So they can just call it can be recorded, or there can be at some place where just email it in. So you can collect these, filter them and then feed them back to the group for discussion, again, is a feedback loop here. Another one is to set up regular connects for the sole purpose of sharing what’s on your mind, or call whatever you want. These don’t need to be in the office, by the way, they can be outside the office and spaces to stimulate thinking hybrid isn’t necessarily home or office. I mean, there’s a lot of things in between. And these don’t even have to be like long meetings. So some people think that they have to get into brainstorming sessions that lasts three, four or five hours a day. That’s not necessarily the case, these could be quick, in the moment, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, kind of like just again, it’s those brain dumps and stimulating conversation. If you like to use the virtual tools, there’s now a lot of additional apps that you can download or add on to you can download for zoom or teams or whatever you use that allow you to kind of CO create. So Whiteboards is an example that people now use on Zoom. If that’s too simplistic look for a different tools. There’s a whole suite of them now.

April Martini 6:57
Yeah, and I think, you know, there’s several things that I want to comment and put finer points on here. The first thing is, with regards to the tools, I think this is hugely important. And coming from the agency side of things, we always talked about the value of like the wall, right or the room or the wherever you were doing your creative exercise. And so we always had different conference rooms that could be reserved, especially if there were projects going on for a long period of time, or it was going to be a bigger assignment, where people could do exactly what Anne just talked about, of plugging things in when they were thinking about it or, you know, based on their schedule when they had an hour or two throughout the day that they were going to work on it. And we had several these types of projects actually, as COVID went on, you know, throughout another tool, which was mural, but to Anne’s point about the whiteboard, really specifically, this allows you to do that in a virtual way. And I actually think it’s quite nice because it builds more efficiency into the process without losing any of the creativity. So what I mean by that is, we’re not really presenting on boards anymore, right? That’s kind of a thing of the past. And the unfortunate thing about doing things that way, where we were cutting out pictures, etc, is you had to print it out, put it up, but then you also had to manage the virtual side of things with these whiteboards. Even if you are in person, I think they can be hugely helpful to building efficiency, you can also align more quickly within them on what the team is thinking, feeling, etc. So I think to Anne’s point, we saw with COVID, the need for these tools to develop. And I think they did actually quite nicely. So I would just put a plug that if your company hasn’t explored these I would. And I would spend some time thinking about what you need for your organization. And then which tools can fulfill those needs specifically, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. But on the other side of things, I want to talk a little bit for a minute about the point around where people actually find their creativity and allowing them to do that. I mean, I remember when I was responsible at the last agency for developing the strategy team, in order for me to be able to do that I had to reserve blocks of time and physically leave the office. Yeah, and I’m the type of person to the points we’ve made so far throughout this episode that I actually even in the creative quote unquote, environments of an agency, you know, supposed to be energizing, and the spaces were beautiful. And you had ping pong tables and taps of beer and all these things. I actually found it to be a huge distraction, and I could not sit at my desk and create, I just couldn’t do it. And so when I had to do heavy thinking it required me to leave the space and find a space that was a lot more inspiring. And so I think this has been going on regardless of when we were you know, quote unquote, always in person. And I know all cultures are different and that sort of thing. But swinging back too far. The other way I think is dangerous. So that’s why we say we’re not in line with Bob Iger as much as I realized he’s the head of Disney and there’s great things about him in the fall. Ah, stuffy of doing that. And then the last thing I want to say here is, you know, I mentioned before, if you’re going to have people do this exercise, and I know we’re going to get into some of the specifics of this in later points, making sure that you respond to them, but also making sure that you’re cultivating these things in whatever way makes sense for your organization. Because I think the other tendency that we’ve seen is people are like, tried it didn’t work, move along. Yeah. When it’s actually like, did you give it a fair shot? Did you really try to make it work for your organization? Because we would suspect and of course, given our point of view that maybe you didn’t try as hard as you could have, and you kind of set it up to fail from the beginning. So just my comments

Anne Candido 10:42
there? No, I think those are all right on and out. Maybe think of another one that we used to hire a sketch artist too. Yeah,

April Martini 10:50
we did, too. Yep.

Anne Candido 10:51
I mean, obviously, a lot of creatives can draw. But if you’re worried about being able to capture the ideas in a more of a visual format, even on a digital whiteboard, do sketches can actually create those things for everybody to see. So it’s so hard to find out something that can’t be translated virtually anymore. To the point that you’re making is we’re no longer cutting out pictures. I’m putting him on board. And even in that case, I think you could probably figure out how to do that virtually to Yeah,

April Martini 11:19
I mean, I just had a discussion last night when I was out with someone who’s a more of a fine artist. And we were bemoaning the fact that the hand skills have kind of gone to shit. But I think you know, us old folk that really remember liking to get in there with the paints, and we got into the like texture, the brushes and all the smells. And whenever I’m like when you’re commercializing it, it’s just not the way of the world anymore.

Anne Candido 11:39
So no excuse smell the computer screen.

April Martini 11:43
Part of the reason I’m no longer designer there other than the bigger reason that I was not good at it. Anyway, I digress.

Anne Candido 11:49
Okay, well, the next point of how to foster a creative culture in a hybrid work environment is to solicit creative insights and ideas. This means giving people stimulus for pondering in actually asking for ideas. Again, being creative is not a spontaneous combustion of like people coming together and all of a sudden, poof, you have creativity, there has to be something that they are ideating on that actually, it solicits and elicits the actual creativity. So this usually comes in the form of business challenges, maybe some opposing or contradictory criteria, a lot of the things that you’re trying to face are like, how do we do this without compromising this or I don’t want to lose this. But I want to add this you have to sort of you have those conflicting criteria that you need a software, or as I said before, the what if scenarios, which are very visionary oriented, which is what if we could do this? Or what if we wanted this? Or how do you know, how do we do this? And so then you get those juices start to, to percolate in people’s brains. But it’s very important to be specific in order to get the most actual idea. So you don’t want to leave it too broad. We You heard us on a previous episode we had about how to be creative, it was about actually giving guardrails? Yes, right, and so understand that there are guardrails. And that helps us to be creative. So if you need more about those sorts of things, go back and listen to that episode. But studies do show that when people have time to think independently, first, more original ideas are generated. And of course, you can guess where I got this from. April. Any guesses?

April Martini 13:20
Adam Grant’s “Originals.” Yes, Savior of everything these days and is becoming a little bit of a one trick pony, I’m starting to be concerned. But again, I digress. Again,

Anne Candido 13:28
maybe should just you know, reread the book, okay.

April Martini 13:32
It has been a while.

Anne Candido 13:34
But that’s what the studies show. So it’s not just you know, Adam prophesizing. This, but it is really true based on those experts out there and being one of them. But in that being the case, hybrid environments can actually give people freedom to actually ponder in a space and at a time when they can be the most creative and free from distraction, kind of like what you said April earlier about, where you find that creativity where you find a creative space, then when you pull people together in the forums, as we discussed previously, the conversations are richer and more productive. But the most important thing is that there needs to be time incorporated to people’s day jobs for this exercise. This is not something that people are supposed to do on their free time. Okay, guys, they need to be able to do it and within the context of their work time. And it needs to be incentivized and rewarded, but not on a who has the most creative ideas, because creativity isn’t a competition. And so that never wins. Because it becomes a very subjective exercise of Oh, who is the most creative here, but it’s who is most committed to the practice of creative idea generation. So you need to structure your incentives and your rewards around that. So April, what do you have to say about this?

April Martini 14:40
Yeah, I think, you know, one of my big things is making homework assignments, quote, unquote, and I don’t mean that in the way of taking it home and doing it because I think your point is 1,000% Correct. And this is where I would see the lines start to blur and the work start to stretch outside of the hours and the These kinds of exercises becoming another thing on people’s plates. But the point of the homework is to set intention around a lot of these things. And the other piece about this is when you solicit, sometimes, depending on who’s in the room, the mix of people the level of experience, the level of exposure, how many assignments they’ve worked on, you’re going to have to curate the assignment and lead people a little bit more or a little bit less depending on who they are. And so I love the homework, because the homework is not like, I guess I should stop using that term, pre assignment, right? So something that people are meant to go and explore before coming to things. Sometimes if it’s a super senior person, and they’ve done this a lot, you can just say, go do some digging and exploring and come back with some ideas. If they’re not that sometimes you have to direct and teach at the same time that you’re providing the assignment. So some really specific ones that we use at the agency. And we actually use pretty considerably pretty much on a regular basis with a lot of our clients today are things like, what is going to get you out of your thinking in this day to day in this office in the space that you’re always in, even if your office is at home? Because we spend so many hours a week on our particular job, right? So this is stuff like, what trends are happening in the business world in total? And what could we learn from them and bring back in? What are your competitors doing? This is a really good one for a newer person, more junior person, someone learning to be a leader in this space? What are some things going on in the category around you? So like if you’re in the home building world? And you’re actually the builder? What about the contractors? Or the people that pour the concrete? Or the ones that are going to install the pipes? What did their websites and social and things look like? What can you learn and glean from those types of things. And I think really, what this is, again, meant to do is one, get them out of their day to day and all of that. But it also can be a way to guide folks into being more strategic in their thinking and get to a bigger picture level, which I think is where you start to get more creative ideas. Because one of the ways we serve our clients is to help them identify places where we’re trying to do these creative exercises. And they too quickly get to we try that that would never work that’ll never get approved. That’s not the culture of the organization. Those things may all be very true, that is the antithesis to getting people to think more creatively. So I just caution closing the door too much. But then like I was saying at the beginning, make sure you take a look at who is going to be part of the process and set them up for success. And give them some ideas on what this might look like through their assignments. So they can come in primed to participate, no matter their level experience all those things.

Anne Candido 17:51
So really good point. All right. Our third point on how to foster a creative culture in a hybrid work environment is to form creativity pots. April.

April Martini 18:01
Yes, I’m a huge fan of this. So what you do is you actually assign people again to thinking about the people you’re being very tasteful, and who you’re putting together and why. You also want to make sure that the people you’re putting together are going to have different ways of thinking. So a good way to do this is different departments or like I just said different types of experiences. Right? When we used to do this at one of the agencies that was heavily proctor work, we would purposely always pull someone in that didn’t work on the proctor business to participate because we wanted to make sure we were pulling ideas from other parts of the organization, you want to make sure that you’re not fostering groupthink and how you put these people together, you want them to actually have a creative debate. And when I worked at Interbrand, I felt like we did this really well. And we used to call it a three legged stool. And so what you would get is you would have an account lead, hopefully someone who was strategic and not just more of a pm lead, but that was a personal preference for me, an actual creative designer, and then someone on the strategy team. And so we would be put together as the comprehensive team with different hats on when we would go into that, right. So I would be the one, you know, on the brand side of things, or the business goals, making sure that we were being strategic and what we were serving, the point of tension was always with the creative person, because they would push the boundaries of creative but I would have to make sure that it was really on strategy. And then the account person was always the clients voice in the room. So they were trying to meet the objectives of the assignment and the things that they knew about the client. And none of this was meant to be restrictive, it was more to get to the creative debate to get to solutions that served all three of us. So back to that stool analogy, where if one feels unbalanced, right, you’re kicking their leg out the stool falls. So you’re trying to make sure that all of those things are in balance and that creates a really healthy tension. Some people may or argue that by creating the teams, you’re not naturally letting creativity evolve, like what can happen in the physical environment. You know, we all remember water cooler conversations, although I’m like, who still has a water cooler anyway? antiquated analogy. But I think that that’s actually also a misnomer or misconception because I think what happens at the watercooler is more relational type discussion. How was your weekend? Did you see the football game? What did you do? You know, how was that soccer game you were going to whatever those things are? Or if someone does throw out an idea, very rarely does it go beyond that. Because again, you have to cultivate those ideas, right? So that relies on someone taking the baton and going and doing something with it. And I just don’t think that that’s the right setting for that. By establishing these groups and giving them a chance to really think on things, you’re setting an expectation and an intention that they will work together. Even if it’s virtually on whatever task you’ve assigned, and it becomes their choice, then, how do they go and do it right, because they have the assignment. And like I said, you’ve set the precedent that you’re putting them together for a reason. And therefore you’re expecting higher level thinking, because you’re putting them together as a team, and then it’s on them to facilitate it, however, is going to work best for them. And then I think the other thing to say here is making sure that everyone has an understanding of the level work expected. I mean, this is something when I go back to grad school, and one of the things that really made me mad, or even when I was in design school is if you go beyond that two to three, and you have four, five and six, then you automatically always end up with folks that are sitting back, right. And so you have you know, like me, I’m gonna take charge, and I’m an extrovert, and I love the energy of groups, right. So I will be the facilitator, I will, you know, make sure that we’re all you know, engaged, we all have roles and whatever. But inevitably, if I’m managing too many people, and then there’s an expectation that someone like me is also going to participate in the work, it makes it easy for other folks to kind of just sit back and absorb and not do their part or to be introverted and uncomfortable. The more people you add, the easier it is for them not to use their voice. So there’s all kinds of reasons that this works well or doesn’t, if you are going to have any more than that kind of two to three, because the responsibility defaults eventually, to just a couple of people to take it on and make sure that it gets all done.

Anne Candido 22:26
I that that’s a really good point that two to three, I think is an ideal number for a lot of the reasons you you mentioned. I also think it does encourage more equal participation. And once you start getting bigger, you start getting the groupthink thing starts to kind of come in. Yep. And that starts to really dilute your opportunity to generate all the creative ideas that you possibly can. I’ll give two examples for my p&g experience, where I thought that this worked really well. They’re kind of like on opposite sides. So one was I actually got paired with a Saatchi strategist, which in any realm, like Saatchi notoriously is not known for being very collaborative outside their own creative process. So for here’s my PR person here to go with the Saatchi triad. Everyone’s like, Well, we’ll see what happens there.

April Martini 23:14
But it was a little worried about what you’re gonna say there. Because I’m like, sitting across the table literally, for me right now is your agency strategist.

Anne Candido 23:21
I know. But that’s why I call for finding the right one. Yeah, I qualified. But I think the thing that you said before rings true here, which is like, Okay, up, take two people out of their comfort zone two are naturally creative people and you put them together, they’re like, Well, okay, which is what happened us, we’re like, we’re gonna let’s see what we can do. Let’s do better than everybody else. Yeah. And so it becomes more of a team effort. But we kind of had got to shed some of that baggage and some of our old paradigms that we have from the places that were coming in order to rethink about something that was put in front of us. So that’s one I thought worked really well. And to that point, I think when you put unlikely people together, you can get really interesting things to kind of emerge. The other side of this was my friend and I he’s still my friend and actually invest in as his business is, ooh, Tom, and he was a brand manager at p&g. And we actually had like a shared a common desk behind us or a table, if you will, so I could turn around in my chair, and that was actually his desk. So we would go back and forth, back and forth. It would get heated. I mean, he did in the bullpen, and everybody be like staring at us. But I mean, we’re just on our own little world, because we were very passionate people. And we were just expressing our ideas. And we were like, oh, I want to do this. You want to do this. I can only move I know that. Well. Let’s do this. Felt like I like that. That works for me. Alright, let’s go get lunch. And everybody be like looking at us like what just happened, right? But that’s just kind of how we operate it and I say all that to say you can’t define the tone for which it happens either. So if you are going to foster creative debate, sometimes the bait can get passionate it can get heated unless it starts getting very disrespectful, let it happen. Because that’s sometimes that’s how the people need their outlet. So you need to get it all out there. And that’s the way that they get it all out there, because creative people are tend to be very highly passionate people. Yeah,

April Martini 25:13
I think that’s, it’s so spot on. And I think the thing is, we’re not saying that that is the way that you should do it. But I think it’s more in finding the style that works for you. Because what I do think is that if you can get into that healthy debate, and you can do it in front of other people like that, it takes the pressure off of people to stop what we like to call the Midwest nice in this part of the country, but where people think they have to be polite in their debate. And that’s not actually the case. Now, obviously, we’re, you know, that was an example where it was in person, but you can do that too, just as virtually right? If you’re typing comments back and forth to each other, you can be super straightforward and direct. And then if other people see that, then they don’t feel like they have to spend their time hedging to make sure that they don’t hurt someone’s feelings or be disrespectful or whatever, if you can couch it in this is about the work, not our relationship. And then people can see at the end of it, it’s like, that was a great debate, we got to a good solution. Are you happy? I’m happy. Okay, good. Let’s move on.

Anne Candido 26:12
Yeah, so I think that’s exactly the point. But there needs to be things put in place in order to facilitate that APR, no. Which leads us to the next point of how to foster a creative culture and a hybrid work environment, which is management needs to be accountable for actioning. The creative process? Yes,

April Martini 26:28
that is exactly right. And this is highly, highly critical. So if everything we’ve just talked about, you do all this hard work, and you put all these things into place, and it’s just met with silence or ambivalence, people are gonna lose motivation to be creative. And it is very, very hard to get that back. I will say that from experience, people have to No, and this isn’t just like in a creative environment. I mean, we talk about this all the time, if people are going to stand up and profess their ideas, they have to feel like they were heard and considered and recognized for doing so because it’s a brave thing to do. Even if it’s assigned to you to put yourself out there and say something contrary, or bring an idea, it puts you in a vulnerable space. So in order to ask people to come out of their comfort zone on the other side, you have to make sure that you’re hearing them, considering them and recognizing them. So like we said before, the channels need to be moderated or there needs to be follow up from sessions, they need to be very, very timely and tie to action items. And what is going to happen next with a timeline to make sure that those things happen. As you can hear in my voice, I have had some not those experiences before. And also, I mean, let’s also be real, nobody expects every single idea to come to fruition, but everybody just needs to feel that appreciation. And if management isn’t going to do that, then who will nobody will, it starts at the top right. If it’s not a priority of management, it’s not a priority of anybody that works below management, we have too many things on our plate, we have already talked about how we all have our, quote unquote, day jobs and assignments, which is why it’s so critical to assign these things within the parameters of that. But if people can fill their time with other things, and they’re busy, and they have plenty on their plate, they’re going to do that. That’s their comfort zone. That’s where they can, you know, get recognized the most, it’s not being done here. And so that’s something to be very, very careful of. And this actually means that management needs to be engaged in the process, they have to hold themselves accountable to the same level, if not more than they’re holding all the people that they’re asked to leave things of. And this is especially true and respecting contributions of those who come to the office and those that do not. So this is the other tricky thing. I think that we’re hearing from our clients about the hybrid work environment. And, you know, I’ll just say with my husband’s company, they see this, right. So it’s really hard. For example, for Bryce to work here, when he’s in town, I have the office, our kids are in and out, he gets distracted super easily. So he finds it more helpful to go into the office every day. But he doesn’t expect that of his team. But he will say he has to watch himself, because the other people that are in the office are more accessible, right? Yeah. So on one hand, you can forget about the ones that aren’t there. And on the other hand, you can drive the other people in the office crazy, because you’re constantly bugging them, because there’s less people there than normal, right? So it is self discipline, it’s making sure that you put a practice in place, it’s being very self aware. It’s making sure that you’re respecting whatever environment is working for people or whatever you have a line to as an organization and embracing that and keep coming back to that. Management is also responsible for creating a culture of trust. So people feel safe and sharing this doesn’t mean that everybody has to like each other. But they do need to respect each other. And that means getting to know people as people who they are, what motivates them, how they think what they know and also what value they bring to the organization. Because if you’re not making sure that people have respect for each other, that’s another way that you’re not going to get those He has to come to life. Because if people don’t get along as people, even if they have to work together, that can also be a tricky place. So you kind of have to set all the rules, quote, unquote, right around this and make sure that, again, you as management holds, this is something important and you profess that out there, you help people get to a place where it’s something that they are comfortable doing with expectations of what it looks like. And you also have to be ready to nip in the bud any sort of bad behavior that comes up so that people again, feel comfortable continuing to share.

Anne Candido 30:33
Yeah, oh, that is so so, so important. So if you’re a manager, and you’re trying to create this culture, know that it stops and starts with you. And if you’re not going to lead it, model it and set the tone for it, it’s going to just be anarchy, and you’re not going to get what you’re looking for. Right? Yep. So you need to take responsibility for it, you need to practice what you preach. You need to have integrity as April said, with regards to, hey, if you’re setting these principles, and you’re sending this process, you need to make sure that people are following it. Don’t let those things slide because as soon as it gets undermined, your authority gets undermined because you said that, oh, these three people need to collaborate together, but you’re only hearing one person’s ideas, not all three people’s ideas, then those other people are like, they don’t give a shit what I have to say anyway, so why should it even bother? You cannot undermine your own process, or this thing will just unravel very quickly. And because creative people tend to be very sensitive people by nature, like you said, it crumbles very quickly. And it’s really, really hard to build back up again. Right? So do right by it and make sure you maintain that. And then I’ll just say, to kind of just like wrap up all of this, hold that up. You might have like a final comment too, on this part is I always have final emails. I know. And I’ll try to control my saying that everything that we’ve mentioned to go do over the last What, like 20, some minutes 30, some minutes, can all be done virtually. Yes. There is nothing magic about having people together in the office that makes this happen. We’ve seen it, we know it. I’m going to go on a limb and question, you know why Bob would have said, this is the Bob Iger guy, not just a random Bob that I use, as an example, would bring people together based on this except for the fact that maybe the business wasn’t doing so well. Right. So I’m sure he can you bring people back in? Because your business not doing well. I get that. Putting it into this rubbing under this cloak of like, it’s all a creativity thing. Not so much. Not so sure. And I think that’s why you have to be very, very careful with these rationales is if it doesn’t click with your people. And you’re asking them now to make a huge life switch. They’re gonna be like, I don’t get it.

April Martini 32:41
Yeah, because the common response we hear is, I’ve been doing it this way for two years. Now. What do you mean, I have to come back?

Anne Candido 32:47
What’s wrong? And now they say, well, the business is going well, okay, fine. That should be the rationale. The business isn’t going well, we need all hands on deck. Not that we don’t think you guys are being creative enough. Whose fault is that? Right? Yep. Under management’s fault. That was point number four, just in case you’re keeping an eye keep in check. Exactly. Anything else to wrap up on that? April?

April Martini 33:07
No, I’m good. I mean, I sort of interrupted there. So I gave a half one. But then Yeah, I’m good.

Anne Candido 33:11
Okay. Well, all right. All right. So we’ll move on to our final segment is where we highlight companies or brands who may not be using their Marketing Smarts, may or may not have anything to do with this episode. And this one kind of does. Oh, here we go. It does. Okay, I’m gonna talk about Kendra Scott, because we were at the store in Nashville for our talk that we gave two weeks ago now well, from when we’re recording this episode, about advancing women in technology, and it was a fabulous, fabulous location to have a gathering. And so if you’re trying, you’re trying to create a creative culture, I think this place does really, really well. Okay, that’s fair. Would you admit that? Yeah. All right, because it’s extremely curated, right. And so when you walk in that store, you are automatically kind of pulled in, by just the visual appeal of it all. You’re pulled in, by the way things are staged, you’re put in by just a curiosity to see everything that’s in there. Right. So and then on top of that, the whole premise of Kendra Scott is being able to customize your pieces that fit you. Right, so would we not say like, it’s like you to be creative?

April Martini 34:19
Yeah, no. Yeah, I agree. I agree. I didn’t see the automatic connection. But I yep, I will say, yeah, fair.

Anne Candido 34:25
I’m here all week. So I think that just a concept of that. And other people have tried this too, but be pulling all the pieces together in a way that feels very much like a brand. And a very well imagined and very well articulated brand, I thought was amazingly done. Now, that being the case, it’s also very localized. I’ve been to two of them now. So I’ve been to the one in Austin, which is one of their flagship stores, which also was very magnificently done. It apparently some several consistencies, but it also had the air of the low Local flair, right and our Nashville one did two because it had done I stayed with the big, you know, Nashville written in the pink. And so it had, they all have their little tasteful nods to the local community and what’s special about the local community. But it’s just a fun shopping experience. And I think in doing that it kind of brings out people’s desire to be creative and want to create something for themselves. They’re like, This is mine, I created this for me, this represents me, nobody else probably has this. Or if you do, I mean, it could be a gazillion people, because there’s so many different choices. And that makes people feel like they can express themselves through their jewelry. But then also they had candles and they had other things that you could also use to express your lifestyle. In Austin, I thought it was fantastic. They had a little cafe where you can have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. And you can, a lot of other guys were sitting there waiting for their wife’s cash register. But also, I mean, you could SIP as your shop, or you can have a little girl’s time and before after. So it was all very carefully thought out. And so I thought that that was a really great example of how you could take this creativity, this idea of creativity and put it anywhere. And then Oh, um, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that, like the staff are all raging fans, too. So the staff is very in it. They know the story. They know what the whole brand is about. When we were in Nashville, the wonderful ladies that worked there, were talking about the philanthropic efforts, and in addition to everything that you could do and everything you could buy and purchase. So that’s my parking smarts moment.

April Martini 36:35
Yeah, I mean, I would add on to the brand experience. And, you know, part of my background was in retail for a couple years and a couple of different stints and we would always talk about the brand experience and marrying it up with the actual shopping experience in the store. And I feel like with them, they do an exceptional job of this because they know their audience really, really well. They understand that it’s going to take some consideration and some time. And so they curate the cases, but they curate the experience. And at no point do you feel overwhelmed. And I feel like one of the things we’re seeing as a result of retail stores, limiting or condensing or whatever their in store footprint, as we’re seeing stores become really, really congested. And you’re kind of feeling like you’re cramming things in monetize? Yeah. And so I don’t feel like this was that experience at all. And I also think that they get a lot of credit because they are okay with selling the experience more than selling the things. And so they’re worried about how their loyal fans or even someone experiencing the brand for the first time, or even someone like me where Kendra Scott is not necessarily my brand for jewelry, but I still bought a candle and found a different way to experience it. Right. So I just I think curated and considered are the words that I would use and every element every touchpoint in that store is very on brand. And there’s a lot of moments of delight. And obviously we were there for a couple of hours. So perhaps longer than I would have spent ruminating on this if I wasn’t in the space for that long. But I just I offer them tons of kudos. Yep, I agree. See, I told you.

Anne Candido 38:27
All right, so just to recap, how to foster creative culture in the hybrid work environment. First, create channels and forums for ongoing creative downloads. So it’s important to be able to create those spaces where people can download ad hoc and but you have to make sure that you’re actually going to facilitate it, and you’re going to actually respond to it. Number two, solicit creative insights and ideas. This means giving people stimulus for pondering and actually asking for ideas. Number three, form creativity, pods. These are pods of two to three people that are actively working on a creative challenge. And finally, management needs to be accountable for actually in the creative process. This is critical if everything we have talked about is just met with silence or ambivalence, people will lose motivation to be creative. And with that, we’ll say go and exercise your Marketing Smarts!

April Martini 39:14
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