With whiteboard and flatscreen, Ulli, Andreas and Robin welcome us virtually as part of our Creativity.Journey and tell us about how they live creativity in their Friday meetup.
In the SIMATIC Design team across the locations Amberg, Chemnitz, Fürth and Karlsruhe, Friday is much more than the joyous day before the weekend – In their open team session for exchange, discussions are held, ideas are spun and suggestions for improvement are voiced. Andreas Traub, Leonie Brückner, Robin Müller, Ulrich Ringer, Rolf Zettwitz and Joachim Hirth, who represent all the creative minds of the Center of Expertise Mechanical Design team in SIMATIC Design, describe it themselves as a “hub for information, discussions and a nucleus for innovations and creative approaches to solutions”. No one is left out: from the design engineer to the team leader – everyone should and is allowed to express their opinion, thus ensuring a cross-team exchange of information and knowledge. Especially in times of remote work, the Friday meetup is more popular than ever: 40-50 creative minds currently come together every week.
Openness and an active feedback culture are part of everyday work here – but how exactly does the department then implement this in order to spin off creative ideas?
“We know that there are three important aspects that contribute to creativity and therefore new ideas. For us on the team, these include direct measures to promote a lived feedback culture, creativity and openness, both on a technological level and in terms of interpersonal interactions,” says Robin. What does that mean in concrete terms? Walking around the trade show with your eyes open, talking to suppliers or sharing ideas with people from different fields and adapting and adapting their approaches to your own problem. This also includes advanced training and education, because new ideas require knowledge above all else. But challenges can also promote ideas: “For example, we tried out new approaches, such as scribbling on an iPad, through the Creativity.Challenge, and discovered it to be a new approach for ourselves,” says Ulli happily.
In this context, we were of course interested in how Ulli, as team leader, addresses the issue of openness himself?
“I would say that we as a team have lived the topic of openness very well from the very beginning. One thing is clear: no matter how well you get along, the boss is the boss and there is always a certain distance, but ultimately we are all in the same boat and therefore want to work together and not against each other,” says Ulli. Feedback goes hand in hand with openness: “Giving feedback, but also accepting it and learning from it are crucial points for me in order to continue to grow. It’s also the team leader’s job to ask why certain things are done the way they are and not differently, and then of course to find out what I could do better myself,” says Ulli. This goes hand in hand with another important point: that of trust. Andreas supports Ulli’s statement and says: “Trust is unspeakably important – if you also know and trust each other privately, then you begrudge your colleagues their successes all the more. We know each other very well in the team and sometimes have private conversations. For example, if we’re in the kitchen talking about soccer and Ulli comes in, we continue to chat without worrying that we’re not talking about work. This trust creates the necessary motivation for us in the team.”
And what is the best way to create this trust?
“I think it has a lot to do with the behavior of leaders,” Robin says. “It takes characters who model feedback and openness for others. To establish an open discussion culture in a team, team events outside of work also help. In our case, that’s the annual Christmas party, for example, where we all get together across the sites and just have fun.” Nevertheless, some people may not yet dare to give their opinion in front of the whole team – which is why feedback surveys, which are still anonymous at the beginning, can be very helpful. In this context, Ulli recalls an example from 2019 in which all 80 employees were able to write down their cultural values that are important to them on mentimeter.de. “This resulted in a nice keyword cloud from which we established our team culture values. We then printed this collaborative result on posters and distributed them at all locations,” he says.
Scientists also agree: In order for creativity to be lived and ideas not to be nipped in the bud, trust is needed in the team. As a recent article in the Harvard Business Review shows, the aspect of an organization’s adaptability goes hand in hand with that of trust: Especially in challenging times like these, we need creativity and adaptability. Very specifically, it is recommended to generate direct interactions, both planned and spontaneous, between people within an organization. These intentional interactions should encourage people to share ideas and experiences. Dynamic networking is a great foundation for decision making and achieving a common goal – And that’s exactly what the Friday meetup aims to do.
Trust also means admitting mistakes – but how exactly does this work?
“Setbacks are part of every creative development process. That’s precisely why the leap of faith from above is so enormously important. Hurdles come and go, and ultimately what’s important is what comes out at the end of the journey,” says Robin. Spatial changes can be enormously helpful in this regard: “For one product, we got to travel to the Netherlands to meet with experts in the field. We had developed the final solution in just two days, which we would never have been able to do so quickly otherwise,” Andreas recalls. This clearly shows that a look outside the core team is incredibly important, especially when the idea is not yet perfectly developed.
And so we, as a creativity team, are also happy to be able to tell and share the stories of our colleagues across areas
Our learnings from the interview with Ulli, Robin and Andreas:
- Openness and feedback are the keys to success
- Support confidence through direct interaction between colleagues
- Creative ideas require expertise in the respective field