Steve Jobs’s mission statement for Apple in 1980 was: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” Apple has clearly succeeded in achieving its goal. Visionary leaders like Jobs who are able to think abstractly, see the big picture and articulate a vision of how things could be better stand out from the crowd. They lead their companies to success by inspiring people to be creative and aim for the future.

Successful companies like Apple can’t afford to rest on their laurels; they must continue to innovate to survive. This requires companies to take a different approach to management. Traditional corporate structures that enforce rigid, hierarchical management practices are not very effective for cultivating innovation. For creativity to prosper, companies are increasingly embracing a more fluid leadership style that fosters innovation.

Google has achieved acclaim for its unusual, distributed leadership style which encourages employees to exercise their creativity and come up with innovative ideas. Google follows a 70/20/10 rule, under which 70 percent of time is spent on core business projects, 20 percent on related projects, and 10 percent on any new ideas of interest. Google’s management style represents a model for the next generation of leadership, one that empowers people, embraces ideas, praises experimentation and encourages learning as you go. These principles are more common in the design world than the business world, but they’re finding their way into corporate cultures, and innovation is flourishing as a result.

“What can we learn from artists and designers for how to lead? In many senses a regular leader loves to avoid mistakes. Someone who’s creative actually loves to learn from mistakes. A traditional leader always wants to be right, whereas a creative leader hopes to be right.”

John Maeda, Design Partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers.

Design principles play a key role in ClearPoint’ s leadership style and approach to software development. At ClearPoint, we lead by listening. We listen to our clients’ business problems and approach projects from scratch without making assumptions, i.e. we don’t always have to be right. Our honest and transparent engagement style builds long lasting client relationships because our clients trust us. ClearPoint hires the best and brightest brains in technology and empowers them to do what they do best. Instead of a rigid management hierarchy, there’s a team framework that supports collaboration, fosters creativity and encourages disruptive thinking when tackling technology challenges.

Creativity isn’t linear and can’t be turned on by command; it’s an iterative process. That iterative approach is a fundamental tenet of the Agile software development methodology employed by ClearPoint. In the traditional ‘waterfall approach’, all project requirements are strictly defined up front. This approach results in a rigid, almost legal-like document and lacks the agility to react to changing market needs. Using the Feature Driven Development (FDD) Agile approach, there is a continuous two week cycle of development, feedback from the client and ongoing improvement by the design team. This “inspect-and-adapt” approach to development provides the flexibility to make changes as needed, which greatly reduces development costs and time to market.

We are living in the Golden Age of Technology and Design and companies who know how to harness the power of both are prospering. Innovation is thriving and humankind is advancing as a result. Steve Jobs would be pleased.

Karin is a user interface/user experience (UI/UX) development expert at ClearPoint. Her passion is creating beautifully designed, user-friendly interfaces that make it easy for people to use ClearPoint’s exceptional software.

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