How Do You Stimulate Creative Teams and Increase Innovation?

April 3, 2013

AMA Playbook asked Paul Falcone and Lina Echeverría: how do you lead creative teams? How do you unleash innovation?

According to Paul Falcone, former VP of Employee Relations at Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles and was formerly Vice President of Human Resources at Nickelodeon: “Leading a creative team can be a night and day difference from leading more of a professional or traditional work group.  What you get with creative types is freedom of thought, innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, silliness, and more often than not, a full dose of irreverence for what “the man” (i.e., corporate) has to say.  On the other hand, what you don’t typically get is all that much control or compliance because creative types tend to thrive when they’re not micro-managed or restricted.  With creatives, you’ll get the typical mix of race horses and plow horses–those who work at phenomenally high paces with tremendous results when they’re “in the mode,” combined with more analytical and quiet types who like to work independently to produce an artistic and creative final product.  What’s important in leading these types of groups, though, is to set them up for success and then humbly step out of the way.  You don’t want to attempt to control their every move–simply explain the logic for the constraints you’re under so they can empathize, let them check in with you if they have any questions, and then simply manage to the final product.  Most creatives realize that there are bureaucratic restrictions on their work, which they may joke about and poke fun at but will ultimately respect.  However, they also inherently want the creative freedom to produce a final product that has their signature or name brand on it.  So set the structural and timeline expectations upfront, make them aware that you’re available if they need any support or assistance, and then quietly step out of the way.  That’s a formula that will typically garner the greatest results–both in terms of quality and volume–from a team designed to invent and reinvent your company’s unique identity. ”

According to Lina  Echeverría, former scientist and VP at Corning and author of Idea Agent:

For more insights from Paul Falcone, check out his performance management books.

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About The Author

Paul Falcone is a human resources executive in Los Angeles and has held senior-level positions with Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and Time Warner. He is the author of a number of AMACOM and SHRM bestselling books, four of which made SHRM's prestigious "Great 8" list: 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire, 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems, 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees, and 2,600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews. His latest AMACOM book, 75 Ways for Managers to Hire, Develop, and Keep Great Employees, was released in 2016. Follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulFalconeHR and his website and blog at


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