TEN TIPS FOR LEADERS WHEN BUILDING CREATIVE WORK ENVIRONMENTS
Creative cultures are made when passionate people become aligned around a common purpose, a set of values and a yet they remain free to be themselves. Creative workspaces support the behaviours and activities that are required of these people. They bolster a company attitude, reflect a brand’s personality and reinforce a way of doing things. However, the physical environment alone cannot sustain a culture of innovation; it is the responsibility of leaders within the business to role model and endorse the right behaviours in and around the workplace
1. Give people the freedom to choose where they work
The environment can be a highly effective tool for stimulating the right mindset for problem solving and creative thinking. But sitting in the same place all day everyday is not great for supporting the variety of tasks people need to do. So balance out the need for feeling ‘at home’ and the need for variety by providing a shared team base and a number of different settings that people can choose relating to the type of work they need to do.
(Good examples in the IWIWT book: Innocent Drinks)
2. Don’t scrimp on collaboration areas
When space gets tight, think creatively about how to preserve areas for both formal and casual meetings. Generating a creative buzz amongst colleagues is easier when they have ample opportunities to bounce thoughts and ideas. Rather than converting that meeting room into more desking, look at ways of rearranging workstations to free up space to huddle. Remember, a cosy corner with a few sofas or a bar-style café area can take up very little space – collaboration rooms don’t need to have four walls.
(Good examples: Google, Innocent Drinks
3. Limit the budget
Great creative spaces don’t have to cost a fortune! Many exciting spaces are made using reclaimed furniture and objects. People become very resourceful and very creative when given a budget to stick to – it can be fun! Many of Google Zurich’s 100-or-so meeting spaces were created by in-house teams who found ski gondolas and former Antarctic expedition igloos for their offices.
(Other good examples: Sony Music and P&G’s clay street project)
4. Introduce some friendly competition
Empowering teams of people to decorate their spaces raises the excitement as well as the standards achieved! Choosing a number of spaces that are not customer-facing (the loos are a good place to start) and setting a broad theme is a great way to lower any ‘fear factor’ that may creep in about getting it ‘wrong’. You’ll be amazed by what people can achieve.
(Great example: T-Mobile)
5. Engineer collisions (use food as a lure)
Many great ideas are shared and built serendipitously. It’s not enough to sit back an hope that people will somehow have to opportunity to cross-fertilise their brains with people who are not in direct contact with them everyday (ie: in their team). So it’s important to create many opportunities for people to bump into each other casually throughout the day. Food and drinks points are a great way of doing this. Consider providing free tea/coffee or even breakfast foods and fruit for your employees. (it’s surprisingly cheap, but people really see it as a perk!)
(Good examples: Bloomberg, DreamWorks Animation, Google)
6. Use ‘dead space’ to breathe life into the business
Hallways and circulation spaces are often overlooked as tools for communicating to people and generating excitement about the company. Hang stimulating art, soon-to-be-released products, updates on the business or information about people in the company and even holding meetings
along well-trodden paths are great ways of generating a buzz. Keep them changing to keep people’s attention.
(Good examples: Hasbro, Dyson)
7. The writing’s on the wall
Create plenty of opportunities for people to write their ideas and share their thoughts up on the walls for other to see. ‘Shared thinking’ is an important part of the creative process, allowing ideas to be developed and honed as they happen. Don’t limit this valuable thinking real estate to just a few whiteboards in enclosed meeting rooms, paint walls and doors with chalkboard paint, transform entire surfaces into whiteboards, or even allow people to write on windows. And make sure there’s an abundant supply of colourful, chunky marker pens or chalk!
(Good examples: T-Mobile, Philips, Sony Design, Google)
8. Change the pace throughout the working day
The creative brain works best when it is fed a problem and then allowed to reflect upon it. In business, we tend to go at our day at 100 miles an hour, pausing only sip some caffeine before we jump back on the treadmill. Design opportunities for people to slow down into their daily paths. Whether it’s a zig-zag path (DreamWorks Animation), a fishtank (Bloomberg), a nap pod (P&G) or places to play games (EA and LEGO), encouraging people to slow down will give them the breathing space they need to really think.
9. Create places to escape
Sometimes we just need to get messy to create. But often, especially with ‘clean desk’ policies, people do not feel free to try out their ideas – warts and all. Providing spaces where teams can hide away uninterrupted gives them permission to experiment without fear of judgement.
(Examples: Sony Design, Philips, T-Mobile)
10. Get offsite
Even the most creative people in the most companies with the most creative offices need to go offsite. Getting away from the hyper-connectivity that we’ve become accustomed to in today’s wireless world is essential for ensuring a team achieves focus. Whether it is a project-based think tank style space like P&G’s clay street project or a place to go for shorter meetings, make sure that the place is set up to challenge thinking and the rules are: there are no rules. (or there are no Blackberrys).