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3 Steps to Making Your Company Culture More Creative

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
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Design-led companies such as Apple and Google are known for being on the cusp of innovation, and it is their creative company cultures that act as incubators for their employees’ cutting-edge ideas. Yet they seem to have been created with their artistic, inventive atmospheres where watercooler conversations about social media turn into a new idea for the latest project.

You may think a creative environment isn’t relevant to your business, but that isn’t necessarily true. Companies don’t have to compete in the creative market to benefit from a creative atmosphere; workers will be more personally motivated when they have a bit of creative license, and they will have outside-of-the-box ideas and solutions when given the freedom to imagine.

Design-forward companies like Apple and Google are known for being on the cusp of innovation and it is their creative company cultures that act as incubators for their employees’ cutting-edge ideas. Yet they seem to have been born with their artistic, inventive atmospheres, where watercooler conversations about social media turn into a new idea for the latest project. You may think a creative environment isn’t relevant to your business, but that isn’t necessarily true. Any company can benefit from a creative atmosphere; workers will be personally motivated when they have a bit of creative license.

Apple and Google are not inherently creative companies; their creative reputations come from their approach to problem solving and idea design. They employ creative trends in their workplace that were invented by designers and architects, such as open office space and design thinking practices that inspire a more creative workplace where ideas fly. Compared to the effortless creative-cool vibes of younger, artistic companies, encouraging creativity in more technical, bureaucratic companies can seem impossible. However, it’s as simple as using the same tricks that architects have used for years to achieve creative efficiency; incorporating design-inspired workplace trends is the key to creating an open-minded company culture and unlocking inventive ideas from your employees. 

Open Up Your Space 

Giving employees the space they need to dream is an absolute must for creative work. In fact, one of the biggest factors that influences people’s mood is their surroundings. According to a study done by the National Institute of Mental Health, older and outdated office spaces trigger an unhealthy stress response in employees, while lower stress hormone levels are experienced by employees in new, well-lit, and open office spaces.

Workplace stress kills productivity, so adapting some of the newer office design trends can boost the atmosphere as well as efficiency. Getting rid of yellow fluorescent lighting and breaking down cubicle walls are two ways to achieve a more modern, low-stress work environment. Open office layouts and a variety of workspaces, such as standing desks, formal desks, or a couch working area, are immensely conducive to creativity; providing an uninhibited office gives employees more room, mentally and physically, to think, work, and create.

In addition, open and versatile offices have the potential for increased collaboration between co-workers. Co-workers who are not usually in contact with each other will suddenly have daily conversations, and employees from different departments will collaborate naturally and discover solutions that have never been tried. The new layout and design of your office will give your company an air of relaxed synergy and openness that employees will absorb. 

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Team Building and Design Thinking Exercises 

If your budget doesn’t allow for office-wide renovations and restylings, a field trip to a unique and trendy off-site meeting room could inspire employees and their work. Having your team- building workshop off-site, for example, will add an adventurous element to the workshop, which draws employees closer and makes them more comfortable through shared experience. Team-building exercises and workshops are a great way to establish an open, communicative culture in the office. Team-building exercises eliminate the fear of rejection of ideas and foster camaraderie instead of mean-spirited competition.

After getting your team better acquainted with one another and creating an atmosphere for open, creative collaboration, you should also try the creative industry’s way of solving problems: design thinking. The design thinking method is used to tackle business projects with a different approach to problem solving, in which the problems of the project are researched, goals for the project are imagined, and then inventive solutions are discovered through unrestricted brainstorms. Starting with a goal in mind instead of a problem inspires individuals to find different ways of achieving the goal, leaving you with many possibilities for the project. Make sure to listen to all possible solutions and consider all contributions to keep your company’s culture one of comfortable collaboration.

There are plenty of creativity-jogging exercises and games that contribute a spirit of voluntarism and innovation, but make sure that your higher-ups respect and encourage the creative nature you’re hoping your company will adopt. Putting managers alongside clerical employees during creative brainstorms and games gives employees a clearer sense of their new company culture and creates an open, equal environment where ideas are respected no matter whom they come from.

Support Creative Changes on All Levels 

Inspiring employees to work together and search for creative solutions isn’t as easy as renovating the office and playing a company game of hot potato. The changes that occur in your newly implemented creative culture need to be understood and supported by management, otherwise you will revert to old habits. For example, a manager who sees two employees conversing at the watercooler may be tempted to steer them back to their desks with a strong suggestion. However, nothing could be worse for the new creativity in your office.

Managers should take notice of the new versatile work areas and understand that creativity is accessed by people in different ways. It may be counterintuitive to let employees work freely and not monitor them, but a little flexibility can go a long way. According to JPMorgan Chase, 95 percent of employees who have a flexible manager who is sensitive to their work and personal lives report that they feel motivated to exceed expectations. Making sure that managers are encouraging the creative changes to your company and rewarding inventive work ideas is the last step to securing your company’s new creative culture and letting creativity thrive at the office.

There’s no telling where your company will go once you rouse your employees’ creativity. Working like a design company the way that Google and Apple do will produce more ground-breaking proposals around the office that can propel your company to the forefront of innovation.

About the Author

Jan Hoffmann-Keining is the co-founder and CMO of Spacebase, an online database that enables people to find and book meeting rooms and workshop spaces around the world. The Berlin-based startup has been at it for two years, and the platform now boasts more than 2,000 available spaces in 25 countries around the globe. Hoffmann-Keining founded Spacebase with his partner, Julian Jost, in 2014, and their vision of affordable and interesting meeting venues has only grown since then. The pair of entrepreneurs continue to tackle new markets on their quest to change the way we meet.

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