How to design a truly creative workplace
Among the most accomplished and inspiring creative organizations I have known, the more interesting ones have a workplace immersed in the outside world.
They have worksettings where their customers are part of their studios. They are certainly present periodically in workshops, reviews and casual visits. But thy are also present continuously in the studio through an immersive visual display of information and images from their worlds. In the best of these studios, this is information not just about their clients directly, but also of the the worlds of their clients' customers, stakeholders and constituencies.
I am always impressed what what seems to be the easy curation of this information and data, yet surprised at how rare these environments are.
Some clue to why this may be can be found in Dan Pallotta's excellent essay in the Harvard Business Review, "What's the Point of Creativity?" He suggests that the purpose for creativity in many organizations is in an unspoken goal "to gain competitive advantage, to crush the competition, to win."
But creativity needs to be understood in context, Pallotta contends. He suggests that we look beyond the impulse to crush the competition. The best creativity, he says –
...comes from a much deeper place than the desire to win. It comes from a desire to contribute to the lives of others, either by introducing something new that improves the quality of their lives or by showing people that something thought to be impossible is in fact possible. When you change people's perceptions about what can be accomplished or achieved, you contribute to their humanity in the richest possible way.
Perhaps this is the clue for other creative, service and product development organizations. Rather than a workplace that speaks of the conventions of business in its sparsity, functionality, standards and structures – the stuff of organizations whose goal is competitive dominance – consider instead a workplace shaped by the people who work there in the interests of their clients and the worlds they serve.
That workplace, informed by a rich flow of data, information, images, objects and inspiration, may be the workplace that helps the organization achieve its purpose much more successfully. That workplace may be the one where real competitive advantage is shaped.