Startups, design firms are not the only fields that desperately need to generate creativity. If you ask me, any working space should be designed in order to do that, because we all need to generate new ideas and in order to do so, office design plays a crucial part. The question is, how do we achieve that?
Cubicles dominated our working spaces for decades and it’s time to change that. We see changes all over the place, see for instance companies that thrive on creativity, Pixar, Google, Facebook to name a few. But this idea has been really taking off in the past 20 years and I would like to give some general advices in order for you to improve your office.
Good riddance to grey walls, anonymous corridors and dull lighting, we can do much better than that, and we can really give our employees an environment that breathes creativity. A few keywords will guide us to do better: inspire, share, play, personalize.
Inspiring your employees should be one of the most important goals of any office design. You want people’s creativity to be enhanced by the very space they occupy for hours on end. A big quote in the toilet, a blank whiteboard where people have to write things they are grateful for or simply a list of things they want to improve.
To some extent you need to imagine your whole office as a white canvas where the employees – the generative force of your company – can express themselves. But putting inspirational quotes is not enough, you need to go further. The colors of the wall should in some part blue, green, yellow which have psychological effects on our creativity.
Generating new ideas is all about making new connections, and in order to do so, you want your employees to have as many opportunities as possible to bump into each other and share those ideas.
Take Pixar for instance which at some point put the toilets in the middle of the office space in order to maximize chance encounters and therefore the birth of new ideas. I’m not suggesting to be that extreme, but make sure that employees have spaces and moments to sit down and share ideas, relax, feeling free to express themselves. Common areas should be at the center of the office, especially pantries and coffee areas should be seen not as a waste of money, but rather as a plus. After all, new great ideas can result in higher revenues for the company.
Work and play should go together. Do you have a space where employees can do so called “unstructured activities”? Taking breaks is another way to trigger creativity, and giving your employees a space where they can do that by playing with each other, by letting go of the stressful day is essential to it.
In the age of technology everything defers to screens and monitor, give your employees analog games, board games and alike. Maybe they can play with clay, or mini-golf. Depending on how much space you can dedicate, do not think that watching movies and playing video-games is the only way to go, there are plenty of cheap, non-technologic ways to inspire people, and they really need it.
It goes without saying that you can’t pretend people to be inspired or creative if you put them in a box that is exactly the same as the box next to it. Humans have the uncanny need to express themselves and to do so you need to provide a flexible space that can be personalized by the employee. This is both a design but also managerial issue.
You need to give people space to say “this is my spot and it should look like this”. At the same time, you need to also give them a flexible environment where they feel like they can change things, shuffle the furniture, work by standing or laying down the floor. A relaxed mind is necessary in order to generate new ideas, make sure that’s the general feeling of your working space.