This week's guest post is by Marissa Levin, an award-winning and well-recognized entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Information Experts. The company creates technology-based integrated communications solutions, human capital strategies, and learning strategies for government agencies and firms in a wide range of vertical markets.

Marissa shares her perspectives here on tapping the incredible creative and innovative talents existing among the diverse group of people inside her company:

How well do you really know your co-workers and employees?

Sure, you see them on a daily basis and know just enough about their personal lives to be dangerous. You may even know what they like for lunch. There's probably a "comfort level" you've established. You've identified some personal boundaries, designating topics acceptable for discussion and those off the table.

But have you ever stopped to consider what defines your co-workers outside their jobs? More importantly, have you ever thought about how these aspects influence our jobs, and what they add to the workplace?

As a CEO focused on company culture, I'm always thinking of ways to maintain a connection with my employees and protect the valuable connections among everyone working here. As organizations grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this. Employees become more scattered (thanks to telecommuting), are assigned to client sites, and work amid additional layers that develop to ensure adequate management structure.

Adding to these challenges, I am out of the office for appointments, meetings, and networking events. Despite email exchanges and conference calls, it is far too easy to lose the human touch. When I am working "on" the business, it is often difficult to work "in" the business.

I've always known we have incredibly creative, passionate, intelligent, and highly individualized people. We are not a typical organization. We have many out-of-the-box thinkers who display individuality throughout their lives. This uniqueness gives us an edge with our culture and customers.

To find a way to understand and bring all this creativity into the company, I surveyed our employees about what defines them outside work. The results were unbelievable.

Beyond having top-quality instructional designers, project managers, strategists, writers, graphic designers, developers, & human capital experts, we also have scuba divers, college-level volleyball players, swing and belly dancers, scrabble professionals, marathoners, environmentalists, a competitive U.S. Master's swimmer, competitive soccer players, classical pianists, wine enthusiasts, equestrian experts, poker players, gardeners, and chefs.

That's not all - our staff also includes:

  • A certified "High Power Rocketeer" who has launched rockets to 6,000 feet at 550mph
  • Someone who taught welding at a vocational school
  • A four-time Outward Bound participant
  • A Special Operations Sergeant whose unit's experience was the basis for "Blackhawk Down"
  • A two-time patent holder for educational technology who served on Barrack Obama's Education Policy Committee
  • A published physique photographer and bodybuilder known at WOLVERINE

Think about the creative & innovative power of that incredible diversity of skills, interests, and passions. The question now is how to integrate these interests and skills into the company. I hope to celebrate their individuality in some sort of event or create an internal online tool that brings people together based on their interests.

Here's your question: What creativity & individuality is beneath the surface inside your company? Ask around, and you may be in for some surprises of your own! - Marissa Levin
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