The Rise of Creativity
Prioritizing creativity in the workplace through design and company culture
Article by Leah Moore | Photos by Pace Images
As an icon of creativity, the stereotype of the tortured artist—both burdened and blessed with innate, outsized talent—has been disrupted. Creativity is no longer the sole property of the artistic elite. As our understanding of what defines a creative person expands, we have come to identify creativity as an essential aspect of professional life.
“People want to live interesting, exciting lives,” says Aloma Murray, co-founder and director of Eugene Mindworks Co-Working Space and Business Incubator. “We’re all naturally creative, and that doesn’t have to mean that you are an artist in the traditional sense.”
The benefits of promoting creativity among employees—better job satisfaction, improved problem-solving skills, increased productivity, etc.—are well-documented. So, let’s instead explore how business leaders are fostering creativity through workspace design and company culture in our community.
Ban the phrase: "I'm not creative"
Promoting creativity starts with redefining what creativity is. “When people use the word creativity, I think they tend to be thinking about art,” says Greg Brokaw, managing partner at Rowell Brokaw Architects. “Creativity is also just the day-in and day-out problem-solving we do on all different levels.” Humans are natural problem-solvers, therefore we are all creative.
At CBT Nuggets, a pillar of the company’s famously unique and quirky culture is that taking the stance of “I’m not creative” is not allowed. “It’s not allowed because it’s not true,” says Chief Marketing Officer Tracee Aliotti. “We’re all creative. There may be some people who are more comfortable with it, because they do it more often than others, but we all have that creative ability inside of us.”
Work cultures that promote creativity
ABC (Always Be Cultivating)
“Creativity comes from allowing for the space and time for it to happen,” says Aliotti. At CBT Nuggets, staff members are required to engage in self-directed learning or training for at least 30 minutes per day. “It’s dedicated time for employees to grow and self-actualize, as an individual,” she says. “That, in itself, promotes a great deal of creativity, because when we’re learning we continue to be inspired and are introducing ourselves to new ideas and new ways of thinking.”
Empowered employees are creative employees
Employees are at their most innovative and creative when they feel empowered to be so. “You nourish creativity in your staff by allowing them to have a lot of freedom and responsibility,” says Brokaw. “Autonomy and trust in employees allow them to feel more personally invested in the company and encourage them to bring their best, most creative work to the table.”
No drama llama
At Rowell Brokaw, all team members, no matter their experience level, are welcome to make suggestions and share ideas. “We’re all working to make our projects the best they can be. We don’t really care where the ideas come from,” says Brokaw. In fact, one of the company’s many mantras is: It’s not about you. “When your design or idea doesn’t quite work for a project, you didn’t fail. We simply tested that idea, and it’s not working for this project. It’s not about you.”
Both the City and Isler CPA consider their travel time to reduce their carbon consumption, using the digital age to their advantage between meeting with clients, teaching classes, and delivering briefs.
“We can work anywhere in the world, so that’s been really good,” Iskra says. “It’s a bit of an expectation as a professional service provider that we have that face time with our clients. So, ratcheting [travel] back, we’re a little cautious about that, but they understand and accept it.”
Work Spaces that Promote Creativity
Open offices, AKA idea colliders
Open office concepts and communal workspaces make all the difference in promoting collaboration, communication and collective creativity. “Really big creative sparks are seldom something that happen to one person in isolation,” says Aliotti. “In a space and culture like we have at CBT Nuggets, where we work together in an open environment, we are encouraged to share ideas and differences of opinion, and there’s more of that natural collision of ideas and creativity that leads to those big a-ha moments.”
Neutral design (like Swiss-level neutral)
“I think that any space that’s designed for creativity has to have a blank canvas sort of feel to it,” says Brokaw, whose firm’s work for a variety of clients consists of designing such spaces. Rowell Brokaw’s own office features neutral, clean design that supports the creative process without distracting from it.
Designing for inspired humans, not office drones
“A big part of my job is to create a space that makes people feel motivated, empowered and inspired to be here,” says Murray of Eugene Mindworks. One way she achieves this is by adding features that humans crave, including natural light via large skylights and abundant plants and greenery.
Take Their Word for It
With the right combination of culture and thoughtful design, any company can create a work environment that promotes creativity and enjoy all the benefits that go with it.
Brokaw’s advice to managers is to give people freedom and allow everyone to bring their skills and ideas to the table. “We’re all Swiss Army knives—but we’re all missing a few features, and we all have a few extra that others don’t have,” he says of his co-workers and staff. “We all have the wine opener, we all have the basic knife. And, every once in a while, you get someone who’s got the toothpick or the nail file. Everyone has a few specialty items in their kit, but generally we share a lot of skills and duties.”
When it comes to designing creative workspaces, Aliotti emphasizes an empathetic approach: “Think about what the environment looks like when you’ve been able to be your most creative self,” she says.
“Let’s take a different topic, for example. Let’s just say dancing. If I want people to dance, what’s the environment that I need to create that’s going to lend itself to people getting up and moving their bodies around? I need to create space for it. Maybe I need to turn on some music. Maybe I need to invite some people who are really amazing dancers who can inspire others to get up and dance, as well. Then swap out dancing and put in creativity and ask yourself: ‘If I want people to be really creative, what is the environment that I could create to make that happen?’”
“You nourish creativity in your staff by allowing them to have a lot of freedom and responsibility.” - Greg Brokaw, Managing Partner, Rowell Brokaw Architects.
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