HR & Management

Creating creativity: Setting up the right environment for innovative thinking

4 min read

13 September 2016

Lights, camera, action! Straight away, you know where you are: a film set. The more you think about it, the more examples there are of environments specific to industries – from the wooden panelling and leather chairs of private banks to the sterility of the operating theatre, environment plays an important role.

Restaurants use this to attract customers and to move them on (fast food chains are said to have uncomfortable seats to help turnover). So what is the best environment for creativity?

Tech startups vie to have to coolest and most creative offices. Slides, sleep pods and more food than you can shake a stick at seem to be the order of the day. What I find interesting is that while now you are not creative without a slide, it used to be the bean bag. However, I am the first to say: beanbags don’t make you creative, although it is perfect for an afternoon snooze. So what does?

Your environment is important, but it is a case of hitting the right note. Being in the middle of an open plan office full of suits selling hard on phones is not a good environment. On the flip side, while the tech campuses are undoubtedly awesome, you don’t need to go that far to achieve the required results.

It takes a few simple things to give a great environment. It needs to be a comfortable, calm safe space where you can throw ideas around without fear or judgement. Being able to hear yourself think is a given, but it can be open or closed depending on your companies culture and what you are happy with.

People need to feel comfortable there and people need to feel safe. Something as simple as putting up brainstorming rules, can make a massive difference to a room. If people are relaxed and feel they can join in without looking stupid, you are halfway there. And you want people to come to the room full of energy and ideas and to keep this up, so refreshments are great and some daylight and fresh air are a big plus.

You need to be able to record your thoughts, so some basic kit is needed: A wall that can be plastered in Post-It® notes, a flipchart or whiteboard and plenty of pens. You are unlikely to have the chance to get your own décor straight away, so it is good to know that white is a good backdrop. If you are allowed to get the paintbrush out, orange is meant to be high energy and blue calming, so feel free to pile the colour in.

Small things can make a big difference. Even if you are in the most conservative of offices, you can use a room, take jackets and ties off and relax the environment a bit. It helps if you do things that are normal to signal a change. This could be as simple as some doughnuts or ice breakers for the more adventurous.

If your environment does not work, go out. There are all sorts of places from coffee shops to museums and public spaces where you can go for free and interact with people in a different environment. Sometimes the change is enough. If you have a bit of budget, rent funky meeting spaces, with private members clubs, hotels and start-ups all having lots of different options to suit all budgets.

Tom Tuke-Hastings is the author of new book, “It’s All About The Idea“. The book contains more examples and 52 creative steps to make you and your team more creative in the next year, and is available from Amazon priced £9.99.

Elsewhere, Marsha Ward, founder successful accountancy firm The Number Hub, explains why a creative workplace can play a big part in the success of an operation.