How can our spaces improve creativity?

  • ACCOMMODATE BOTH SOLITARY & GROUP WORK. The extremes of closed office and “open concept” workspaces spaces cater to solitary and group work respectively. Cubicles are the worst of both worlds. Some people (and some tasks) are best performed alone; others with groups.The creative work environment would cater to both modes of working. For example, both laboratory and workplace experiments show that brainstorming techniques work best if they are done alone first, then with a group.
  • INCLUDE AN INFORMAL, SOCIAL SPACE WHERE PEOPLE CAN WORK IF THEY WANT TO. Lounge and café areas (and the like) stimulate informal interaction that can generate new ideas. A relaxing atmosphere can help. It is also good for people to have an option to work in a different part of the workplace if they need a periodic change of scenery. Being able to tote a laptop to an informal area can do wonders.
  • DON’T LET FURNITURE CONNOTE HIERARCHICAL ROLES OR CONTROL RELATIONSHIPS. Out: long boardroom tables. In: roundtables. Better: not hashing out ideas around a table at all; a circle of sofas and collection of lap trays would be an improvement. This principle applies to many other pieces of furniture. Also, creative work flourishes if people are given a certain sphere of autonomy. This means that the space should not be able to accommodate surveillance and hecktoring from the boss.
  • LET PEOPLE LEAVE THE SPACE AT THEIR DISCRETION. People should be free to leave the space to (a.) think about problems and tasks in a different context (“excursions”) and (b.) look outside for sources of inspiration (what Twyla Tharp calls “scratching for ideas”).
  • TASTEFUL AESTHETICS. Ugly is bad. The challenge isn’t so much about finding an aethetic that caters to everyone–there are many “looks” that work for most people. The challenge is to prevent individual’s workspace customizations from intruding on someone else’s thinking. Many workplaces for creatives are large jumbles of brick-a-brack (inspirations, old projects, workspace decoration, etc.).

The biggest challenge is creating a workplace that embraces creativity and more importantly radical change.
Real creativity comes when we are allowed to great risks and make huge leaps, not baby steps from the status quo.
WALL SPACE!!! Wall space accommodates flip charts, sticky notes, posters, bulleting boards and whiteboards.
Large, vertical, shared work areas are incredibly useful for collaboration and creativity.
Routine and familiarity are the enemy of creativity…so if you want to improve creativity get out of your routine and familiar environment.


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