High Caliber Designers Need a Creative Release
We recently hosted our first Sparta Engineering FedEx Day where we stopped operations to dream up and deliver a project within 24 hours. Overall the experience was very rewarding for all employees involved (read about the concept in Daniel H. Pink’s book “Drive”).
Sparta Engineering tends to attract a very specific type of person. This person is usually a high caliber engineer with a high degree of creativity. We love working with these types of people because they are always bringing fresh ideas and fresh thoughts to the table. However, like any great designer, if you cage them or don’t let them exercise their creativity enough, they are a little like a Ferrari in a traffic jam. When you subject these high caliber designers to the grinds of day-to-day business such as budgets, meetings, technical documentation etc., it is only a matter of time before they implode. The Fedex Day proved to be an effective way to let these people exercise their creativity without rules or restrictions. This creative process produced a Fedex Day product that was fantastic, thoughtful and stretched our business’s paradigms. Sparta took all of a Thursday to complete our FedEx Day and had the groups present on Friday. Sparta’s engineers returned to work on Monday with a fresh outlook on their work projects and ready to keep the creative juices flowing.
Related Content: Using a Company Wiki for Employee Collaboration (one of the FedEx Day projects)
FedEx Day Projects Developed in the 24h Period:
The projects that were generated during our FedEx Day fall into one of the following three categories:
- Projects that solved an internal problem
- Projects that solved a problem our customers didn’t know they had
- Projects that detailed a new product design
Sparta Teams Delivered:
- An automated calculator to do routine math problems (solved an internal problem)
- A company wiki for internal knowledge distribution. This group sought to solve a problem that they encountered on a daily basis to either make themselves more efficient or to solve a headache they experienced at work. (solved an internal problem)
- A variable displacement frac pump that could shift between high pressure and low volume and low pressure and high volume to address the varying needs during fracturing. (customer problem)
- An adjustable set of stairs or a trailer that harvested green energy to improve gas mileage (new product concept)
Raw Creativity is Something We Need to Learn How to Cultivate
I fondly remember my design class in university as being one of the more challenging classes for an engineer. After spending the previous 20 years of your life in school being trained to solve problems under a rigid set of guidelines governed by which class you were in, which chapter you were working with and the three sentences of information commonly given in text book problems.
The whole system was designed to have everyone arrive at the same answer.
Life isn’t like that and for the first time in school our design class was pushing us to creatively solve problems with no information, no guidance and no rules. It was a pure form of being creative. I found our FedEx day to stir a similar set of emotions. We were asking our team to define and solve a problem but didn’t give them any rules or direction.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching everyone struggle with the new found freedom and strongly believe this is something people need to be pushed to do routinely. This is especially true for an organization that wants to have many “correct” ways of designing solutions.
Sparta wants to stay fluid, creative and cutting edge in our designs and I feel the FedEx exercise cleared out some cobwebs in our team and got us thinking at a higher level. Look out for our next FedEx Day at Sparta!