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Creative Space as a Driver of Business Innovation

The stereotypical office evokes thoughts of row upon row of gray, utilitarian cubicles, sterile break rooms filled with mandated governmental policies and the smell of burnt popcorn wafting through the air. Windowless meeting rooms are decorated with mass-produced artwork and a table littered with speakerphone cords and broken pencils.

Bright colors and comfortable spaces lead to innovative thinking.

Bright colors and comfortable spaces lead to innovative thinking.

Imagine instead a brightly colored shared space with flexible modular furniture that can be configured in countless ways. Consider white boards or walls coated with writable and washable paints. Books of artwork, Slinkys and Etch-a-Sketches and colored pencils and pens abound.

Which space is more likely to foster innovative thinking?

As businesses shift from relying on org charts and hierarchies to work teams and task groups, the need for groups of disparate employees to come together to tackle problems is more acute than ever.

Research has shown that as the workplace evolves, having the right kind of space to spur innovation is critical.

Work spaces used to be designed to focus on the individual, but today should be focused on the team. As such, work spaces need to evolve to foster the type of innovations that effective teams can develop.

Here are six steps to consider taking for redesigning some shared space that will spark new ideas from your employees.

1. Comfort is crucial.
Uncomfortable office chairs are not ideal. Comfortable couches, chairs and ottomans that let people put their feet up offer the chance for improved brainstorming.

2. Watch and learn.
The instinct may be to ask employees what a creative space should look like. Instead, consider taking a step back and observing how employees work. What surface spaces do they need? What technology is critical? How could you update partitions to make the space suit this more? What supplies would get creative juices flowing?

3. Let there be light.
Humming fluorescent bulbs above do not inspire. Find spaces with natural light and exterior views for creative use. Consider using warmer floor and tabletop lighting (especially near all that comfy furniture). Adding plants (real not plastic) also adds warmth and intimacy. Space that inspires leads to inspirational thinking.

4. Let it move.
Movable whiteboards. Reconfigurable desks. Room partitions. Side conference rooms. All of these amenities let the space be used by different groups with different needs. Sometimes moving a table to a new spot is just the thing that encourages spontaneity.

5. Creative cubicles.
While considering creative space in the office, don’t forget the cubicle. This is where many employees will spend most of their time. It costs the organization little to nothing to allow employees to hang, decorate, outfit, and own the space they occupy. Infuse a spirit of creativity throughout the organization, from the board room to the switchboard.

6. Allow for solo.
The emphasis on collaborative and creative work is important, but there will be times when some employees need quiet space without interruption. If your office has cubicles that are open, try repurposing a small conference room that can be booked by one person to do solitary creative work, or allow them to work from home or the library when needed.