Creativity and innovation are often thought of as illusive concepts… that creative ideas are a result of rare inspiration or epiphany. I’d like to share with you some scientific research on creativity, and how with the right tools you can make creativity and innovation predictable and repeatable (that’s your cue to lean closer).
In most work place environments, not a lot of thought is given to the physical space in which people find themselves for creative thought. Most client office’s I visit will have a lackluster combination of white walls, beige desks and if you’re lucky a piece of colourful art at reception. There’s nothing wrong with this set up when it comes to thinking in a rational, logical and linear way. When it comes to lighting up the creative centres of the brain however, this set up leaves a lot to be desired. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that shows us that the physical environment in which we place ourselves can have a significant impact on our ability to think creatively and come up with great ideas.
One particular study in this field looked at the effects the natural environment had on our ability to think creatively. Scientists took groups of people, gave them all the same problem, placed them in three different environments and asked them to come up with creative solutions. The first group was placed in a typical office meeting room with beige walls, a white table, no windows, etc. The second group was placed in a park, that is, taken directly to the physical environment. The third group remained indoors, but was given a picture of a rainforest, just a visual representation of the natural environment. What the scientists found was that the second and third groups performed significantly better than the first group who were in the typical meeting room. There is a physiological reason as why this occurs. For the purposes of this short article I won’t dive into the complexities behind it, but I will cover how you can use this phenomenon to your advantage.
How you can apply this in a practical way when working individually or in groups:
1. Go to the natural environment. If time is on your side, take your meeting or workshop to the outdoors. Find a park nearby your office or go for a walk around the block during your meeting.
2. Bring the natural environment to you. Bring a pot plant into work and place it on your desk. Maybe you’ll be able to negotiate your way onto the desk by the window?
3. Fake it till you make it. What the research shows us is that it is just as effective to have a visual representation of the natural environment. Put a poster of the beach on the wall at your office, or make your desktop background a forest landscape.
There are lots of different ways you can bring an element of the natural environment into your workplace to boost creativity. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, you can find me on Twitter, @fasttrackjudy or [email protected] Happy Friday!