Robots and Pencils wants to do more than just transform the app world

Michael J. Sikorsky set out to create a company that would not only revolutionize the way people look at mobile technology, but how they look at the structure of any business.

Sikorsky contends that even in these times when workplace culture has been granted greater importance, business leaders too often take an impersonal approach to hiring. So in 2009, he created Robots and Pencils.

“It’s so easy for a business owner to tick box your way through talent,” says Sikorsky, co-founder and CEO at the digital innovation agency.

“We start to think of talent as these commodities and we think there is this pool of talent you can just take from and plug into any one of these tick boxes. My belief is that the better way to hire is to design a company specifically for the talent. People want to be human and to have stories and meaning behind everything they do.”

The company was founded in Alberta, Canada, where Sikorsky was born and raised. In January, it merged with Cleveland-based Kinetiq Digital to expand both its territorial reach and its capabilities. Northeast Ohio operations have moved from Beachwood to downtown Cleveland and Jamie Reid, communications director at Robots and Pencils, says the team is excited about the future.

“We’re focused on being a digital innovation partner for businesses to help them leverage mobile and frontier technologies to transform their companies,” Reid says.

Sikorsky has an impressive résumé. He regularly speaks about innovation, business strategy and mobile technology all over North America at such places as Harvard Business School, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University.

In 2013, he was chosen as an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® award winner. It’s all centered on the philosophy of merging creative talent with groundbreaking innovation.

“Why did Steve Jobs build atriums in the center of his office space to pull people together?” he says. “He wanted different cultures to hang out. This is not a new idea.”

Still, he says it hasn’t been an easy road to achieve success.

“In any strong culture, by definition, it’s going to be deeply compelling and deeply repelling if it’s strong,” he says. “You can’t be deeply compelling and not be deeply repelling.”

Thus far, those who are compelled outnumber those who are repelled and the company continues to grow.

“There are a bunch of people who wanted what we were offering,” he says.

Mark Scott is senior associate editor for Smart Business Cleveland