Creative environments for everyone
Whether you wish to design a creative office environment, school environment, or a creative environment in general, follow these 10 steps.
1. Dress comfortably
This has less to do with creative environments than it does with preparing your mind to be creative. The ideation and innovation process are all about big, out-there ideas and going beyond your comfort zone. That’s hard to do when you’re distracted by uncomfortable, stiff or formal clothes. So dress appropriately!
2. Make sure there’s plenty of comfortable seating
When you spend lots of time sitting down, your office chair becomes pretty important. Nobody can think with an aching back. Here at Ideas To Go, we use ergonomic, adjustable Herman Miller chairs to help keep everyone comfortable. Riding along with #1, comfort has a huge impact on innovative environments.
3. Maintain the perfect temperature
Ever tried to get through a meeting while sweating or shivering? Not so great, is it? It may seem trivial, but the perfect temperature is essential to ideating. Each creative suite here is designed for optimal temperature control, and all offices have a stock of fleece jackets in case it gets chilly.
4. Constant feeding
Ideation is hard work, and it’s difficult to focus when you’re wondering, “How much longer 'til lunch?” You need to fuel the brain in order to generate the most creative ideas. We serve meals and snacks that are energizing to help avoid the post-lunch slump.
5. Take breaks and encourage people to look around
It is important to take a step back from ideation and let some ideas incubate. The incubation of ideas often leads to moments of problem-solving insight. Stimulate your mind with the surrounding environment, whether that's a leisurely walk outside or just a spin in your chair. Both of our offices are built with creative thinking in mind, and include interesting architectural elements, word walls, toy and game closets, group and private workspaces, and stunning views. Plus, ITG New Jersey is across the street from the historic Morristown Green, where George Washington made his first encampment during the American Revolution—and ITG Minnesota is situated in the birthplace of Minneapolis, with historic buildings, cobblestone street, and stunning views of the Mississippi River. Both locations are excellent places for taking a refreshing stroll to expand your thinking.
6. Take excursions to broaden thinking
We use a variety of thought experiments to trick your brain into going into new territory, instead of re-treading old, familiar paths. Some examples include Assumption Busting and Get Fired Ideas. These methods expand the mind and force connections that otherwise wouldn't have been made.
7. Use a note-taker to allow ideas to flow freely
Our Word Processing Specialists are an essential part of our process. By capturing everything that is said, they free participants to talk and think broadly, without worrying about taking notes or losing any ideas. Less time spent writing is more time spent generating ideas and being more creative.
8. Break out in to smaller groups for one-on-one ideation, and ideally pair clients with consumers
As we’ve written before, both clients and consumers benefit from the change of technique that co-creation of ideas offers, and learn a lot from each other during these conversations. It's nice to get out of a big group and bounce ideas off another mind. Interaction and involvement of everyone is key.
9. Include lots of visual stimulation in the room
You never know where inspiration will come from. But if there's one thing that's for sure, it's that more stimulation is great for the creative mind. During projects we often post pictures around the room. Sometimes they revolve around the project topic, and other times they have little or nothing to do with it. Then when the energy in the room is lagging, facilitators will have participants look for inspiration in the pictures.
10. Have lots of things available to hold, touch, feel and play with
Keeping hands busy allows the mind to think more effectively. This is called Embodied Cognition, and it's even been researched! Fiddling with toys can distract the mind and allow for free-flowing connections to be made. We always have lots of toys around
Follow these 10 rules to produce environments that induce creativity all year long. our offices to keep things interesting, and some projects even include sessions in our Creation Stations and Labs, which are filled with toys and craft materials to get you thinking and creating.
If you found this article interesting, read more about the Creative Problem Solving Model we use to facilitate Fortune 500 companies.
Becky McCrone is a Project Manager and Word Processing Specialist at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.
Originally published June 20, 2017, updated June 21 2019
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Project Manager, Word Processing Specialist