Unlocking the creativity in your team

Last week, we held an organization-wide hackathon that brought together 35 teams with more than 80 people from across our family of Cambia companies (HealthSparq and Regence). It was a tremendous three days of creativity and team building.

With our bi-annual hackathon in mind, this is the first in a series of posts that will address creativity and leadership throughout an organization – at all levels and in all teams. Please note that creativity is not an event or a program; it is a mindset that can and should be strengthened by the company’s culture.

Unlocking your team’s creativity is not a mystical, unreachable ideal, and it is essential for an organization to thrive. All of us have a tremendous potential to create, so why don’t we see more creativity at every level of an organization? What can we do to unleash that potential?

Play to Individual Strengths:

One of my heroes is Michelangelo. Where everyone else saw flawed blocks of marble, Michelangelo saw a man. “He only had to remove the marble that did not belong.” His critics stated that he would fail, and in response, Michelangelo created the amazing statue of David.

Michelangelo spent time in an area he was passionate about. In his strength zone, he created something fantastic, and he knew he would succeed. Unfortunately, according to Buckingham (2006), only 17% of the workforce “play to their strength.”

So, what does Michelangelo and playing to our strengths have to do with a hackathon? When we are working in our strength zone, like Michelangelo, we can accomplish amazing things. Hackathons by nature encourage us to work in our strength zones.

Leveraging the ATP Effect

Unlocking creativity by focusing on the individual strengths can have a huge multiplying effect. Biology exemplifies this beautifully in the mechanism our bodies use to produce energy – the presence or absence of just one element substantially changes the efficiency and energy output level.

ATP (adenosine triphosphate) “is where our cells get the energy needed to perform its tasks.” It is the energy currency of the cell. ATP can be generated in one of two ways:

  1. Fermentation (anaerobic respiration), which produces 2 ATP per molecule of glucose
  2. Aerobic respiration, which produces 38 ATP per molecule of glucose

Therefore, for each glucose molecule, when oxygen is added we create 38 ATP vs 2 ATP without oxygen. This is the type of transformation we are after in our organizations – not a linear improvement but an exponential change! Let’s call this the ATP effect.

Using a hackathon to unlock the ATP effect

What is a strength? Loosely explained, an individual can intuitively understand his or her strength areas by noticing activities that energize them, and while doing that activity, time goes by quickly. The individual also has natural inquisitiveness toward said activity. When one is working in his or her strength zone, ideas will freely flow.

It is a well-known fact that hackathons add tremendous value to any organization and an incredible amount of ideas, designs, tools, features, goodwill, etc., are generated and prototyped in a short period of time. This is the ATP Effect, and hackathon is the oxygen.