“No idea is too far out… There’s a whole lot of creativity going on around here!”

If asked, employees might say this about their workplace at DEI Inc., in Cincinnati, OH. DEI stands for Dedication, Ethics and Innovation, and DEI certainly is innovative when it comes to dealing with employees.

DEI Inc. designs financial institutions all over the U.S. Co-owner and executive in charge of creativity, Cynthia Grow, is a self-proclaimed “creative.” When she redecorated her office, the main color scheme was lavender and blues, with stars on the ceiling. Her office chair sports angel wings and a halo. All this creative energy helps when Grow is working with clients. It also comes in handy when dealing with the firm’s employees.

When DEI is starting work on a new design, employees and executives get together for an “Idea Factory” or Think Tank session. Grow said, “We pose a problem. Then we write on boards, on sheets of torn-off paper. Out of it, we come up with ideas.”

No Time for a Line

One idea that has come from a think tank session, for example, is a new approach to the check-endorsing desks in banks and credit unions.

Grow explained, “A lot of banks have a check desk… where you go to endorse your checks. Every time I went into a credit union or bank, people were standing in line endorsing checks on each other’s backs. I asked how come? The customers explained that they only have half an hour to get in, cash a check, get out and get lunch. They have to wait in line right away.”

Grow brought the problem to her people and they came up with a special line system. While a person is standing in line, they can pick up brochures, sign checks or fill out paperwork. This way they don’t lose their place in line. The desk is a thin one that runs the length of a line from each cashier’s desk.

During think tank sessions the stress can run high. Sessions often run all day. Grow said, “We’re trying to think of something completely different. If something isn’t working, I ask my people to think of a way to get around that. If that’s not possible, think of a way it is possible.”

“We don’t allow negatives. If anybody says anything negative we might have nerf balls or marshmallows. We pelt the person with the balls or marshmallows. We make it a fun type thing.”

A Fountain of Ideas

DEI has many ways to keep the creative juices flowing. One is having each employee read at least one publication that has nothing to do with banking. DEI pays for the subscription, the employee picks the topic. Employees are to find articles that trigger ideas that might be applied to bank design and report them to the Idea Factory.

DEI also believes in rewarding employees for a job well done. Employees themselves help in this process. Grow said, “We want people to recognize others in the company that have done something a little unusual… out of their way.” The firm uses comment cards or as Grow said, “Catch-me-at-my-best cards.”

Employees turn in the comment cards about fellow employees who have done an extra good job or something for someone else. A copy of the card is made and given to the employee so that they know right away that they were recognized. At the end of the year whoever has the most comment cards wins. If there is a tie or close to a tie, the names are put into a hat and a winner is drawn. The winner is given their choice of a week during the year at a condominium in Florida. DEI pays for all transportation.

Another reward everyone in the organization works towards is a company trip. Every year DEI sets goals for each employee. To be able to go on the trip all of the employees must reach at least 80 percent of their goal for the year, and the company needs to attain its sales goal for the year.

In a variety of ways, DEI put together a unique workplace atmosphere to stimulate employee creativity and encourage employees’ personal and professional growth. Following are some examples:

  • Employees have use of a well-equipped exercise room and showers.
  • Employees have use of a salon where DEI shares the expense of manicures, pedicures, waxings, facials and haircuts.
  • DEI has impromptu lunches, wine tastings and “attitude adjustment hours” hosted by DEI owners.

When it comes to employee creativity at the DEI “Idea Factory,” the rule is, “No idea is too far out.”


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