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July 12th, 2016

Setting Your Team Up For Creative Brilliance

“You are a product of your environment.”—W. Clement Stone, Entrepreneur, Millionaire, and Motivational Author

What’s the perfect set-up for creativity? No question physical surroundings play a huge role in employee performance. That’s why business leaders often design and cultivate environments that support creativity. In order to entice top young, creative workers, companies are developing offices that are open, collaborative, flexible, inviting, modern, and even fun.

For every individual, creativity is a function of three components: expertise, creative-ideation skills, and motivation. Senior managers can influence these components—for better or for worse—through workplace surroundings and practices.

Lots of companies have the ultra-sleek look on the exterior. Modern architecture of glass and steel, and streamlined shape. Inside? It’s one cube after another. Suffocating to creativity.

The physical side of the workspace is very often ignored in business. Cookie cutter cubicles, standard issue desks, and uniform chairs. What creative person would feel valued or inspired by this? Instead, a colorful, organic, playful environment will energize your creative staff to interact, brainstorm, and arrive at the best possible ideas for your company.

Today’s super progressive companies know that designing and maintaining creative-centric environments is one of three key factors that foster innovation. (Two others are methodical work processes and inclusive leadership.)

Setting this up doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it does take a little creativity and courage. First off, locate the space in a way that the team feels special. This creates a sense of identity for the team members.

When Steve Jobs formed his Macintosh computer team, he put them in a separate building and raised a pirate flag to make them distinctive and special. This reinforced the notion that everyone was there to “Think Different.”

The entryway into the space is also key. A kitchen bar near the entry helps foster pausing for conversations that may spark breakthrough ideas.

Beyond the entry, provide a good balance of stimulation and space personalization. Studies show this can increase productivity and morale considerably. When people work individually they like to tuck away in corners, so provide lots of quiet nooks for individual thought and design. Other studies show that taking walks or working in rooms with high ceilings can promote divergent or abstract thinking.

Another vital attribute is flexibility that facilitates how a creative team prefers to work and interact at various times. Meeting areas for discussion, spaces for group brainstorming, prototype areas for experimentation, and so on.

Interestingly, evidence also supports the work habits of people who avoid an office altogether, instead opting to work in a coffee shop. A little bit of ambient noise (between 50 and 70 decibels—the average coffee shop) slightly disrupts the mental process, which one study found helped people engage in more abstract thinking. A high level of noise, however, (around 80 decibels—a dishwasher) is so disruptive that it becomes hard to think at all.

For more on how to come up with better ideas check out my better ideas blog.

Until then, help your team think outside the box (or the cubicle).

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