Boost creativity by letting employees choose what they work on
The success or failure of some companies ultimately comes down to whether they are sufficiently creative or not. For video game developers such as Valve, for example, failure to come up with new ideas and produce new video games would indicate their failure as an organization. In these cases, a hierarchical structure with top-down control tends to lead to predictability and repeatability - the opposite of creativity.
In Valve's flat organization, where there are no bosses or managers, employees have the freedom to choose whatever they want to work on. This allows them to maximize their creative potential. By not having to follow any orders, their creativity is not limited.
Focus on hiring the most creative, innovative people
This seems obvious, but a big part of Valve's success is due to their emphasis on hiring the best people. This is specially important in this model because creative employees will be very busy, carrying out their ideas, but workers who lack creativity will struggle to find something to work on. And they will not have someone telling them what to do, since it's a flat organization with no managers.
Let employees come up with their own ideas
Employees are free to work on whatever projects they find interesting. They do not have to follow any specific orders or guidelines.
Let employees form spontaneous groups and work together
When an employee sees another employee working on something they find interesting, he or she is free to join the employee who came up with the idea so that they can work on it together, and so are all the other workers in the company. A worker who has a good idea is also responsible for recruiting other workers to assist him or her.
Let employees organize themselves and decide when to join or leave a group
This way, spontaneous groups emerge, and different groups can work on different ideas at the same time. Employees in a group decide how they are going to carry out the work and how they are going to organize themselves. They can take on different roles and not always do the same function. Employees are free to do whatever they want, but they should always do so in the best interest of the company, and themselves.
In order to help workers choose where they should work on, Valve tells them to ask themselves the following questions (Valve's Handbook For New Employees, 2012):
- Of all the projects currently under way, what’s the most valuable thing I can be working on?
- Which project will have the highest direct impact on our customers? How much will the work I ship benefit them?
- Is Valve not doing something that it should be doing?
- What’s interesting? What’s rewarding? What leverages my individual strengths the most?