How 5 innovative businesses are bringing creativity to the workplace—and seeing results

Once again, AIGA has partnered with leading creative staffing agency The Creative Group on The Creative Team of the Future program, an annual investigation into what sets the country’s most innovative companies apart. After speaking with and surveying more than 750 creative practitioners and in-house professionals, we found that designers across the country think the businesses they work for play it too safe, and that they don't feel empowered to take creative risks.

How can you up the creative ante in your workplace? To find out how some of the most successful businesses keep the juices flowing, we turn to our in-house designer program, INitiative, whose advisory committee members also happen to be creative leaders at some of the most forward-thinking organizations, like Target, Square and the National Parks Conservation Association. For more ideas on how to boost creativity in the workplace, including insights from leaders at McKesson and Disney, download a free copy of "Innovation in the House: Creativity Lessons From Five Top In-house Creative Teams."

Find something to fix—and then fix it
From Allan Peters, associate creative director at Target
Creative teams of the future will actively invent new things. When James Dyson, inventor of the famous Dyson vacuum cleaner, came to speak at Target, someone asked him, “How do you innovate?” He replied, “That’s easy. Find something that pisses you off and fix the problem.” It’s the philosophy behind Target’s Garage program. Staff members identify something that bothers or irritates them about the company and then come up with ideas to fix it. The group picks out the best ideas and forms teams around them.

Turn problems into stories
From Scott Kirkwood, editor in chief at National Parks magazine, and senior director of publications at National Parks Conservation Association
Creative teams of the future will tell exceptional stories. “Every challenge we have must be told through a story. We’re not going to produce a boring fact sheet in the magazine. We always have to come up with a story and a person and a human angle.” Good stories feature an element of surprise, a person to root for and the challenges that person faces. It also helps to add layers by including the perspective from the other side.

Role-play to mix things up
From Chris Heimbuch, director of creative operations, brand at Square
Creative teams of the future will actively solve business problems. Once every quarter, Square holds a company-wide “Hack Week,” where people are free to examine different parts of the business and take a hack at challenges outside their department. “It’s really pretty liberating. It gets people out of their comfort zones. We tend to mix up teams that don’t normally work with one another and foster a different way of looking at things.”