1. 6/5/2013

    It would be nice to think that fostering creative environment is as simple as a novel use of space. I have worked in extremely productive environments where everyone lived in the quintessential cubicles. You can achieve a highly creative environment by tailoring a lot of other factors other than where people sit (or stand). While some creativity comes from the activity of the group, many highly creative designers and engineers are not great communicators and need to have optimized personal space. The most creative person I have ever met (and one engaged in hundreds of high value patents) sits in a cluttered cubicle; many forward-thinking folks live in such cluttered, personal environments. If you want to suck the energy out of them, try moving them from their “nest” to another office. The stress totally destroys their thought process causing disruption for days both before and after the move. Saying that a transitional environment works best for everyone is to ignore human nature and the different work-styles that reflect that nature. Not everyone will thrive in a “hot seated” environment and not everyone wants to wander around, carrying all their “stuff” to find a place to sit.

    Having a team of product design consultants that is creative and understands diverse creative processes is fundamental. The creative environment comes is helped by a pro-active management team that engages staff in discovery-oriented projects and promotes bottoms-up innovation from all members of the staff.

    A compensation structure that heavily rewards innovation and risk taking (even celebrating failures) reinforces the messaging and drives the desired behaviors. Humans subconsciously make risk/reward decisions. Innovation and true creativity require the willingness to accept and embrace risk. How risk takers are compensated and how the failures are celebrated alongside the successes defines how individual will subconsciously the next situation.

    In the end, it is a simple matter of understanding human behavior (which is not simple). Want to kill creativity? Punish one creative risk taker just one time. Not only will you kill their creativity but the entire organization will get the message faster and more effectively than you can ever imagine. When threatening people’s sense of security, you are talking basic Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, for those interested in behavioral science.

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