How Do You Create a Creative Workspace? You Don’t Actually Need to Be a Creative to Succeed


How Do You Create a Creative Workspace? You Don’t Actually Need to Be a Creative to Succeed

Imagine you walk into the new office of a booming creative agency or tech company. You see quirky wall graphics all around, loud colours, themed meeting rooms, floor-to-ceiling whiteboard walls, a state-of-the-art cafeteria that doubles as a collaboration space, a yoga-slash-meditation room, and an impressive gaming room. While you marvel at the interiors and contemplate how far office design has evolved in recent years, you may hear sounds of upbeat music coming from the company’s music room, while the office dog comes and greets you with candid enthusiasm.

You probably draw the conclusion that this is a really creative environment, and if you had the great luck to work in an office like this, you’d come up with dazzling ideas like there’s no tomorrow.

To some extent you would be right. A creatively designed, positive environment does enhance creativity, as well as the opportunities to share ideas with others, practice your hobbies, play and chill out. However, there’s a catch, and to understand what that catch is, first we need to look into what creativity actually is, and what it looks like.

So let’s dissect creativity!

Contrary to common belief, creativity is not about coming up with something from scratch; it’s about combining two existing thoughts in a new way.  Connecting random ideas is not difficult. The challenge is to find ideas which, when connected, solve real-life problems or serve some other meaningful purpose.

Creativity experts offer different recipes for generating creative ideas, and there isn’t an agreed formula that works for every person and every business. However, among all the different views and opinions out there is a common streak: to find winning ideas, your workplace needs to embrace diversity and change. The best ideas grow out of an environment that supports different ways of thinking, different activities and different personalities, and which allows people to switch between different spaces as well as different states of mind.

  1. While feeling energetic often helps us think more creatively, at times feeling laid-back makes it easier for us to get into that dreamy state where creative ideas naturally occur.
  2. While a comfortable, distraction-free environment allows us to immerse ourselves into a world of infinite possibilities, intrusive distractions – such as uncomfortable furniture, or strong lights and noise – can at times beneficially confuse our critical conscious mind, allowing unique thoughts to emerge directly from our unconscious.
  3. While having access to a range of resources – including work tools, technology, and information – can help us explore many different options and express ourselves freely, dealing with constraints can also sometimes really help us think outside the box.
  4. While bouncing ideas back and forth with others can spark new, more refined ideas in us, sometimes it’s better to be alone with our thoughts to have profound revelations.

What this means for the work environment.

What this all means is that some people, at some stages of the idea generation process, are much better off working in an environment which is nothing like the ‘dream creative office’ pictured above. If you put these people into the stereotypical creative office space when what they actually need is the exact opposite type of environment, they may simply hit a mental block.

So to effectively support all aspects of innovation – and all your team members in your office – you need to create a diverse work environment, including areas which don’t in fact look and feel creative. Think of spaces that are minimalist and low key. Think of rooms with no access to digital technology. Think of noisy rooms as well as perfectly quiet areas. Think of furniture that is not comfortable enough for prolonged use. Think of rooms that people can lock themselves in for a couple of hours.

Is this a lot to remember?

Perhaps you’re not sure what will work for your team?

When you’re setting up your office space, there is only one important principle to keep in mind, and if you nail this, the rest will fall into place. Set up your workplace the same way the natural environment is ‘set up’. Have a wide variety of spaces – ‘open fields’ where social creatures can congregate, and ‘caves’ for those who prefer solitude. Create areas of serenity that feel a bit like a peaceful beach, and also intense, dynamic spaces that energise people just like a fast-flowing river.

In nature hardly anything is static; animals, plants, rivers, oceans and the weather are all in motion – and this is where nature’s creativity emerges from. Make sure that your workplace encourages your team members to move around, and that your office space itself also changes regularly. Have a flexible fit-out with moveable furniture and mobile partitions, walls to write and draw on, and rooms that people can personalise.

Experiment with what works and what doesn’t, and allow your office space to evolve, along with the creative flair of your team.

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