Pinterest employees crafting things at Knit Con in Dublin.
Pinterest employees at Knit Con. Image: Pinterest

How does Pinterest develop its employees’ creativity?

21 May 2018

Creativity is one of the most difficult skills to hone, but it seems Pinterest has crafted a way to ensure its employees always stay creative.

Both employers and employees are constantly looking at ways to upskill. Employees seek career progression no matter where they go, and upskilling is one of the most effective ways to do that.

While employees can seek ways to do this outside of work, it is often in the best interests of employers and businesses to facilitate this upskilling.

Future Human

Apart from essentially making your own employees better, it can also instil a stronger company culture centred around learning.

With the future of work upon us, there is a lot of talk around specific types of upskilling. While tech skills might seem like the obvious route to go down, those are not the skills that are going to make humans irreplaceable.

In fact, it’s those skills and traits that make us truly human that will keep the future of work looking bright as AI solidifies its place in the world.

Upskilling in creativity

Having skills such as communication, empathy and creativity will be what separates us from the advancing technology. However, these are not the easiest skills to develop. If you had to develop an online course to train a person to be more creative, what would that look like?

For inspiration, we looked to tech giant Pinterest, the social media platform best known for its users’ creativity and crafting skills.

So, does the sharing platform practise what it preaches? Well, four years ago, Pinterest started Knit Con, an event dedicated to developing and encouraging the creativity of its staff as well as lifelong learning and collaboration.

The name derives from the company’s value of ‘knitting’, which is the belief that better solutions come from diverse people ‘knitting’ together their ideas to solve a problem.

“We believe Pinterest will be stronger when you not only pull together world-class engineers, designers, writers, data scientists and marketers, but also when these individuals are passionate about things outside of work and can draw on diverse experiences,” said Enid Hwang, internal communications manager at Pinterest.

“Our success depends on all disciplines as well as our genuine connection to the real-life pursuits – cooking, travelling, fitness and more – that Pinners turn to Pinterest for every day,” she said.

Knit Con is Pinterest’s largest internal event and this year, more than 1,300 employees stopped working for two full days and celebrated creativity.

Connecting through creating

This year’s event brought employees to more than 250 classes at multiple offices around the world, including Dublin.

The classes spanned everything from advanced photography tips and boxing to using blockchain for social good and finding your inner drag queen.

“Over the years, what’s become particularly exciting is seeing how the initial spark of creativity and encouragement can lead to an entirely new pursuit,” said Hwang.

“From the most basic standpoint, Knit Con builds camaraderie, but I believe it also energises us as individuals because it’s really not often you have the opportunity to explore kung fu, neuroscience, special-effects make-up and pasta-making in one day!”

Building creativity

The natural camaraderie that comes with learning a fun new skill with your colleagues is bound to encourage inclusivity and build a culture around collaboration.

But does doing creative things such as crafting or photography actually develop your creativity? Lara Glover is an account manager team lead at Pinterest’s Dublin office and she spoke about how Knit Con has helped her career.

“It provides an opportunity to re-energise and reinvigorate my creativity and makes me feel appreciated as a person at the company,” said Glover. “Additionally, it’s about putting ideas into action – a behaviour that can be often overlooked when a lot of people talk about doing things but don’t end up putting them into practice.”

Glover also proved that it’s not only the participation that encourages creativity, as she exercised her creative muscles when she made the decision to teach one of the classes this year.

“I didn’t feel I had any ‘special talents’, so I went out of my way to find something on Pinterest that I felt I could do. This ended up being ‘pom poms’. So, I learned how to make a craft, ordered the items and away we went,” she said.

“I was able to see people light up as their creation came to fruition. I also loved seeing where people’s creativity led them.”

Other benefits

Outside of developing its employees’ creativity, Pinterest’s annual event introduces the participants to other members of staff that they might not normally get to work with.

For Allison Pianpanya, an international operations analyst at Pinterest’s French office, this year marked her first time attending Knit Con.

“From a professional point of view, Knit Con taught me the value of a healthy work-life balance in the office,” she said. “Knit Con is an incredible way to remind employees about the importance of trying new things and having interests outside of work.”

Hwang said all companies would benefit from dedicating time for employees to connect with their mission and values, but the experience must be authentic.

“Knit Con is deliberately designed to feel like Pinterest brought to life – from the surprise of the schedule, to the breadth of topics offered – and almost nothing is outsourced,” she said.

“Knit Con is undeniably ours and feels that way to every attendee. So, investing time upfront on the overall format and event design will pay off the way it has with Knit Con over the years.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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