Season 2: Unlocking productivity

Matt «Mills» Miller Co-founder, ustwo studios

Empower your team and get game-changing results 

 I was diagnosed with ADHD in my early 40s, so believe me when I say this: sticking to rules is not for me. And that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned—if you want to keep your team productive, you need to loosen the rules. 

Give permission to play 

I used to be referred to as “Chief Wonka”. I would drive around on a scooter, I had a Wendy house as an office, I wore wigs in interviews. The point of this was to show how important play was, show the team that I didn’t want us to be like others. I wanted us to never ever be second guessed. I wanted our output to be an expression of our culture. This is a very different approach from lots of businesses, but it keeps the team super engaged. 

When people are given permission to play, I find they’re more willing to share ideas because it creates an atmosphere of “anything goes”. The team is more relaxed and meetings become much more meaningful and fruitful. 

matt “mills” miller

Create a flexible environment 

You need to create an environment where you would want to work—where you would feel comfortable and can focus. And keep it flexible. At one point we physically moved the creative team from the “front of house” area (where they were basically show ponies for our clients and were therefore constantly interrupted) to their own area upstairs where they had more space and time, to work, play and experiment. This literally super-charged their productivity! Freedom to be creative and come up with lots of ideas allows people to think more clearly about what it is they can bring to work. 

You can also switch things up anytime—it doesn’t have to involve rearranging the office furniture. Why not have your next meeting somewhere more playful? The beach, a local park, a museum. A less formal setup can create a space for more meaningful conversation and keeps creativity flowing. 

Write a manifesto 

Remember you are the productivity motivator. It’s your job to maintain enthusiasm and hype, and keep people focused. Try writing a bullet point manifesto that reminds your team (and yourself) of the end goal. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s your business’ purpose or mission? 

Stick it in the communal kitchen or send this out to everyone whenever productivity is flagging. It will help to re-engage and focus them. Or if you’re a company of one, send it to yourself! 

Trust them 

This really is the key to unlocking magic. When you create the right conditions and the team cares deeply about what they are doing, they don’t need to be hand-held. 

For me, being productive is about actually believing in what you are doing; and giving others belief and permission to play. Don’t expect a string of successes but keep going! It’s all about perseverance and keeping up the momentum. That determination and belief—your North Star—helps when you hit those bumps in the road. It’s all part of the journey.