In July 2018 EGGS' CEO, Ulla Sommerfelt shared her insights on how to create a company culture that fosters creativity and innovation in an interview with Brazil’s leading business paper, Valor Econômico. She experiences that employee freedom and trust are essential.
The original article was published in Valor Econômico on July 12, 2018, and was written by Stela Campos in São Paulo. The text below is a free translation by Cesar Garrubo in EGGS Design Brazil.
About creativity. A specialist explains how `design thinking` applied to employee experience helps innovation.
Why do we accept working in corporate cages?
If companies want to have creative and innovative professionals, they should be aware that they need to improve the experience of their employees. "We build corporate cages. They are toxic environments, filled with fear, power games and internal competition," says Ulla Sommerfelt, CEO and co-founder of Eggs, a design and technology company based in Oslo, Norway, with offices in Denmark and Brazil.
To her, it is necessary to have some freedom and autonomy for the professional to learn to be agile, adaptable and innovative. "In fact, I wonder why people tolerate working in places where they feel imprisoned, the millennials cannot stand it," she said in an interview with Valor while visiting São Paulo. She believes that the more companies grow, the more constraints they have on creativity. 'They become bureaucratic, hierarchical, functioning in silos, and adopting an old-fashioned style of leadership based on command and control." However, for Ulla, if they want to survive, companies will have to rethink this model.
According to the Danish consultant, creativity is not the privilege of the enlightened few, but everyone can create something new.
I do not know how to draw, I'm not a designer, but I'm able to connect points to create links between people and places, so I consider myself a creative person, but not in the traditional sense.Ulla Sommerfelt
She studied at Insead and MIT and began her career at IBM where she worked for five years before starting to work in consultancy. She says that by moving between two very different worlds, that of large corporations and one of the technology startups, she has been able to see points that can be convergent in both cultures.
For Ulla, the creation of committees or departments of innovation in companies has limited effect. Innovation is something that needs to circulate throughout the organisation. She says that people only share ideas and emotions when they feel safe; otherwise, they will keep what they think to themselves. She believes that the experience of the employee in the organisation needs to be more valued. 'And you have to understand their perspective. Managers have to let people do what they think is best.'
In this sense is a believer in design thinking applied to employee experience. 'We used to think of it only to understand the customer,' she says. The methodology consists in finding unusual solutions to problems, starting from the joint analysis of multidisciplinary teams. 'We have to retrain organisations to look at both sides, the employee, and the customer, in another way.'
According to Ulla, when leaders are more aware of how people make their decisions in the company and what their goals are, it becomes clearer what kind of leader they will need to be. They should give the direction, get people out of their comfort zone and not be pointing fingers and blame them when something goes wrong, she says. The important thing, according to her, is to be ready to help when things become difficult and to have compassion. Compassion is more than empathy; it's the ability to understand others and to act.
The executive believes that digitalization will radically change business and finds it essential to imagine future scenarios looking at global mega-trends, but says that we need to reflect. 'The changes are predictable, but the speed with which they will happen is not,' she says. How to face what lies ahead, the only certainty is that companies will need engaged employees.
If you want to grow and want people to grow with you, you need to give feedback.Ulla Sommerfelt
She reminds us that a professional is not won over by shouting. 'People will not learn from that any more than if you do not say anything or speak softly, patting people on the back," she says. Ulla says that the employee must be aware of the moments in which he learns from what he is doing. Even if you let people have much autonomy and subscribe to a more liberal and creative management style, it's important to take a step back once in a while and tell them who the boss is, manage crises, and help people. Specific leadership tasks do not change over time.
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