Bringing Fun and Creativity to Work

How do you inspire employees to become more motivated and perform better? By challenging them to test their creativity and collaboration skills through a team-based contest.

Fostering employee engagement can be a formidable problem for large organizations with far-flung teams operating in different time zones. On the surface, large organizations should be able to handle the ups and downs of intelligent risk-taking. In practice, however, their talent management processes often enforce conformity, legitimize mediocrity and penalize failed attempts at innovative thinking. For employees, a tried-and-true way to survive in such environments is to be average and to avoid rocking the boat.

In 2009, we set out to explore how leaders in our own organization could boost employee engagement and creativity while promoting a culture that rewards innovation and entrepreneurship. We initiated a contest across four Deloitte LLP offices located in India. Employees were invited to join teams, which were asked to develop solutions to a wide range of challenging, real-life business problems. We judged the teams on several criteria, including: their ability to identify the critical issues; the quality of their analyses; the extent to which they found solutions that challenged the status quo; their ability to offer practical suggestions; and their effectiveness at presenting and communicating their views.

The program, called Maverick, was designed to challenge the conventional view of employer-employee relationships as transactional and to find new ways to win the hearts and minds of our organization’s employees. We wanted to harness their best critical thinking and collaboration skills for the benefit of the organization, and we also hoped to provide an alternative to the traditional manager-employee hierarchical relationship.

For many employees, freedom from conformity was a welcome change that enabled their creativity to flourish.

The contest itself was organized along the lines of a reality TV show. The winning teams advanced each week, while the losers were eliminated. In addition to receiving small financial rewards, successful teams received prizes designed to advance the goals of the program. The winning teams were awarded opportunities to work closely with senior leaders on challenging projects such as creating a program to encourage carpooling and developing branding exercises for new facilities.

In designing the Maverick program, we brought several elements together in hopes of finding a “sweet spot” that was both motivating for employees and beneficial for the company. These elements included:

Small teams

Our decision to go with small teams of four people was based on the desire to promote collaboration, minimize free-riding, allow for constructive conflict resolution and build cohesion.

2 Comments On: Bringing Fun and Creativity to Work

  • Adam Hollander | September 22, 2014

    Great article! At FantasySalesTeam, we’ve helped hundreds of companies run sales contests and incentive programs to motivate their employees. We’ve found the exact same thing that you did: team based competition always outperforms individual. We’ve even created a video discussing this:

    You did mention that each week you were ‘eliminating’ teams. The downside in doing this is once eliminated, those employees are no longer motivated by the game. By the end you only have a few teams still in contention and the majority are disengaged. We’ve found a creative solution to this by leveraging the basic premise of fantasy sports. In our games, every player gets to draft and manage their own fantasy team of their peers throughout the duration. This keeps more employees motivated for a much longer period of time; i.e. higher ROI!

    We published a case study about this concept with Hewlett-Packard which can be viewed at

  • Chris | December 5, 2014

    Fun at work is VERY important. It can, done correctly, completely turn a business around. Thank you for providing another technique and support for fun at work.

    Here’s one of mine…

    Chris Reich,

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