VerticalResponse Blog

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on

I’m pretty excited that I got to hear Caterina Fake at the Inc. 5000 conference. Why? She’s noted as one of the most influential women in technology. Her previous ventures at Flickr and Hunch sold to Yahoo! in 2005 for a reported $35 million and eBay for a reported $80 million, respectively. She’s no slouch.

Since there are such few women in technology, I was excited about listening to her ideas on how to be creative as a company and also how to execute on these creative ideas.

I know this well. I’m going through this right now at VerticalResponse. I allude to what we’re doing in a past post, Why My Company Pivot Scares Me, and am trying to get as many great ideas as I can!

At my company, we have a ton of things we want to do for our customers and have to balance that with “there aren’t enough hours in a day” to get things done.

So, the message I got from Caterina’s session is that it’s very important to carve out time for being creative. Coming up with creative ideas doesn’t happen in one-hour blocks, so there needs to be larger blocks put aside for amazing thinking.

My team will probably tell you that I get a ton of thinking done when I’m on a plane or taking off for a vacation. They’ll find me asking a lot of questions and communicating with them more frequently on a more strategic level than if I were at the office. (OK, I nitpick, too.) Much of my time at the office is spent talking to team members about issues at hand, and finding out how we’re doing compared to plan. Big-picture, creative thinking tends to get pushed aside by these more immediate concerns.

Caterina spelled out some interesting ways to find more time in your day to be creative. These three were the ones that I thought were particularly cool:

  • Work when no one else is working – I do this a lot so I can get stuff done!
  • Avoid meetings and have what she calls two-pizza teams. These are teams that are sized to be fed with two pizzas in a sitting. (So, no more than eight on a team if each person has two slices.) It eliminates the need for a lot of meetings and more things can happen on the fly.
  • Eliminate activities that require you to be around people you can’t stand. Pretty good one!

Now it’s time to execute! What do you think of these ideas?

© 2012, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

  • Jason Dowell

    Yeah, be careful when you meet with too many people at once. That leaves a large gap for wasted time and little progress. The smaller the team, the more efficient the meetings tend to be. Small business is great but they have to work harder, at times, that the big boys to get the same results. However, the results tend to be sweeter coming from a small business.

  • Josh Baldwin

    So true! Especially in a busy office, we have trouble having any sort of strategic or directional meeting without someone needing to take an important call. We often end our meetings, not when we have come up with a result, but when too many people have to take important calls at the same time and the meeting fizzles out.

    I was also hoping you could write an article or provide some advice on promotions when your business is too big or too margin sensitive for the traditional routes. We have a commercial/residential construction company, and I’ve struggled thinking up any promotion that a) provides actual value; and b) appears to provide actual value. For example, a 5% discount on a $100,000 is probably unreasonably costly to us with our margins, but a 0.5% discount doesn’t appear to have any value. We already provide things like free estimates or initial consultation on a project, so offering things like that for free can sound forced. And anytime we do something like donate 8 hours of labor to an auction, we have people who either have unreasonable expectations of what can be accomplished in that time, or who deliberately try to get us to donate additional time.

    As a result, we usually ignore promotions and focus on involvement in our community (which we would still continue to do). Any suggestions would be welcome!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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