"In the 1950s prize-winning biologist and doctor Jonas Salk was working on a cure for polio in a dark basement laboratory in Pittsburgh. Progress was slow, so to clear his head, Salk traveled to Assisi, Italy, where he spent time in a 13th-century monastery, ambling amid its columns and cloistered courtyards. Suddenly, Salk found himself awash in new insights, including the one that would lead to his successful polio vaccine."[1]

Studies and examples such as this one show that environment and performance are directly related. So think about your workplace...does it feel creative? Is your team performing at their best? Thankfully, there are other options for those of us who can't travel to Assisi. Or even redesign the work environment like our friends in the creative department at Olympus were able.

At the Fall CreativeExecs roundtables, attendees shared some great ideas for boosting creativity in their corporate work space, even when they were given the paint color choices of "white or off-white."

The first step is to look around and note what you want to change and what you can change within the parameters of budget and company protocol. Next, assess the mood of your department and prioritize what needs to change to boost creativity and morale--short and long term. Consider creating a task force to lead this effort. Now you can get down to work. I mean, fun!

Inspiration: You and your team are creative and, as Jonas Salk made clear, we can't be truly creative without inspiration. Inspiration can be in the form of a vibrant wall color, paintings, videos...you name it. Start with asking your team to list what would inspire them. Some of the ideas we heard at the roundtables were:

  • Establish a "Graveyard" site for the best of the killed projects.
    Acknowledging good work boosts morale even if the client doesn't select the piece. The team feels valued so they continue to give their best effort despite client response.
  • Create a "Blog of Inspiration."
    A virtual or physical space where creative team members post pieces of creative inspiration. It's a shared space where ideas are exchanged and there is no hierarchy of talent.
  • Set up curtains or other colored barriers to create fun "areas" in cubicle land.
    Instead of asking for walls to be built, curtains can act as a visual barrier and add color to the space. This saved money, created privacy and enhanced the room by adding color.
  • Creatively display award-winning work and the awards together.
    There are endless ways to showcase your award winning work and the awards themselves, whether piled in a wheelbarrow in the dining area or displayed in a digital picture frame in the lobby. Make defining the presentation vehicle part of the creative process, something other than a shelf and burgundy wood frames.
  • Sponsor Ted.com sessions.
    Assign a rotating schedule of people to choose a video for the team to watch and perhaps discuss. The internet offers endless sources of video inspiration; my favorite is the Ted.com series. The speakers talk for 3-20 minutes and are smart, funny, relevant and engaging. A 3-minute talk can take your team out of their heads and cubicles. You 'come back' to work feeling energized and inspired.
  • Name the conference room "The Buff" or "The Jacuzzi."
    This is a hilarious solution to a very limited scope of what the team could do with their space. They decided to step right over the wall colors and fancy art and created funny and fun names for meeting rooms. Talk about creativity--"We'll meet at 2pm in "the Buff!"

  • A key to evolving your environment is to befriend the head of facilities. Once she feels you understand her challenges, she'll support you in overcoming yours and she'll get the Aeron chairs delivered, the wall painted vibrant green and the blue rug installed (or maybe at least one of those!).

    Ergonomics are also an important and compelling reason to upgrade furniture and cubicles. Go to https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/ for statistics and government regulations. Use this information diplomatically. It can be received as a threat if not presented with care.

    In most cases, the corporate environment can be molded to support creativity, though sometimes you have to work hard; i.e., be creative, to find the solution. Who better to take on this challenge than the creative team!

    [1] Anthes, Emily. "How Room Designs Affect Your Work and Mood," Scientific American Mind. April 22, 2009. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=building-around-the-mind