Join Nancy Napier for an in-depth discussion in this video Discipline 5: Building creative spaces, part of Building Creative Organizations (2013).
Think of the last time you went into a building or some space and you felt inspired. Maybe it was the great airport like Copenhagen's or Cool Hotel the W in Las Vegas or even. A Japanese garden. How often would you say that a business office was inspiring? Probably not so often. If you've seen pictures or visited places like Google or Starbucks, you notice their offices don't look like most other high-rise or cubicle spaces. These firms have invested in making their workplaces support a strong culture, and creativity.
Why is that important? Researchers report that many employees think that workplace design is important for their performance. And that it can encourage or discourage innovation. On the other hand many employees think that their firms don't really take advantage of the space as a way to encourage performance or creativity. So, what are some of the elements that are important and which you might incorporate into your own work space? Nature is one of those elements and several organizations use it. One has kept its offices just on the edge of a protected nature area. This allows employees to have meetings while walking or take a break in the open space when they need to think hard about something.
That access to nature, according to employees, also helps them come up with and shape ideas, because they can move, they can go to a new venue, and be inspired. Other firms try to encourage accidental meetings, and do that with building design. One creative way is to put bathroom at the end of hallways. This forces employees to walk a long way and in the process bump into people they might not work with and perhaps spark conversations that might not otherwise have.
Some firms have huge staircases in the center lobby, big enough for people to stop and stand and chat. Just like they might do in an Italian Piazza. But if your building space is fixed, don't worry. There're other aspects you could change. Some firms use flexible office layout or temporary space by having movable units that can change over time as type of work or employee changes. Other firms find that open space just doesn't work for everyone all the time. So they've tried to build both common space and private space. Software firms have big, open hive spaces where developers can gather, but also separate areas where people can stop and concentrate.
This mix of open and closed areas Allows for different types of work. A Swedish firm, set up its conference room, to be almost like a living room. Round coffee table in the middle of six big arm chairs. Large enough to snuggle in, but also big enough to lean forward, for a good strong discussion. Last, research confirms what many people like Einstein and Churchill knew. Taking short naps, or breaks, to let your mind wander, can increase productivity.
My own university turned a small, windowless room into a spark room. A place with just a chair, a lamp and a white board. For people to step away for a minutes. To take a quick nap, to let the ideas simmer or just to think. I encourage you to take a walk around your own building and see how you might transform your work space to encourage creativity.