The Leadership Forum

It might be a fairly obvious question. Or not.

Either way, I'm just interested in what you think.

The obvious bit is I think we'd all probably agree with the fact that environment does indeed have a massive impact on creative thinking. Even so, it's probably a worthwhile conversation to have. There is already a need in our organisations for creative thinking to keep us ahead, afloat, abreast etc. Personally, I believe there is a higher level of creative thinking required in organisations today than ever before and even more we should expect in the not too distant future.

So I'm really interested in what you think.

What are the impacts of environments? How do they help or hinder? How do we create and nurture creativity through environments? What do we do where creativity is blocked? How do we bust through challenges with creative thinking? Who does? And in all that, do we ever consider, I mean really consider, environment in relation to creative thinking? If we do, what do we consider?

I've a couple of examples that I'd like to chuck into the pot that I'll share with you over the coming weeks. But for now, I'm keen to leave that with you for your comments below.

What is the impact of environments on creative thinking?

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  • I was at Learning Technologies Summer Forum this week in the Facilitation Imaginarium with Julie Drybrough and Simon Heath. In a discussion I was part of one of the group was telling me about the barriers they'd found with creative thinking when it comes to the same old environment. Same old walls, chairs and tables - same old thinking.

    She was surprised with the upturn in creativity when they tried out their new 'innovation room' a space, with comfy lounge about seating, a space to jot down ideas on walls and nicely done up.

    I like this idea.

    Julie Drybrough (@fuchsia_blue) | Twitter
    The latest Tweets from Julie Drybrough (@fuchsia_blue). #Facilitator, exec #coach, #blogger, dialogue guide Working with people & orgs to improve con…
  • I think the physical environment does have a pretty strong impact on creativity...certainly my experience in working in a grey portacabin, up against a concrete wall in a car park!.....I have a creative job, but often found myself with a brain numbing frozen feeling...I noticed too that others in the same team were often really crabby with each other unless they had been out of this environment most of the day.  Creativity needs a bit of stimulus at any time of the day, could be a swift walk around the block rather than sitting hoping for inspiration perhaps?

    • Great point Nicola. Right, I'm off for a walk.
  • Thanks for your response Mike, I do believe that the hours we work have a huge impact on how productive or creative we are. I can see this with my own experience. I used to work normal hours 8-5 but due to personal reasons I had to swap to working twilight shift and only once I swapped I realized how productive and creative I am in late hours! It is crazy as sometimes through the day I just can't motivate my self but as soon as evening strikes I am full of energy and ready to explore new ideas. Best part is I nearly miss the home time that is how busy and carried away I can get in evenings !

    It also happens with house work... sometimes in the day time I feel lazy but when evening comes I feel like cleaning the house and doing shopping etc. it is very strange as I haven't met anyone as strange as me yet :P 

    So I think sometimes we don't realize that maybe working at different times of the day may be better for us. :) 

  • I found that when I have to work individually I need my work desk as when I try working at home it just doesn't happen. My mind finds other things to concentrate on other than work so I need my work desk to be productive :D but I work best at evening and late hours therefore you would get most out of me about 6pm until very late. My brain seem to speed up and have all these ideas popping up and I am eager to work and learn. I have also found that if I am in a long meeting in a confide space in a meeting room I find it boring sometimes and hard to concentrate.

    Outdoor meeting could be something good, like mentioned below, if it doesn't work to walk in a group because we can't take notes why not have a long table and chairs outdoors and sit outside when its nice weather and hold meeting in nature instead of overcrowded meeting room ? 

    Thanks

    Monika

    • That's really interesting Monika and I know working from home for me tends to be more productive but like you that time might not be 9-5 but later in the day and in to the evening.

      I'm wondering that as well as the environment we work in whether the hours we work has an EVEN bigger impact on our productivity / creativity?

      Lot's or organisations are offering more flexible working patterns now and you can request flexible hours. Wonder how many people request flexible hours to suit how they work best? 

      • Love the idea Monika of a table outside. Maybe not today looking at the state of it out there, but ordinarily when summer comes yeah definitely!

        Agree with you on times too Mike. I'm best at night. I always have been. More recently though, I've been finding a light of creativity happening first thing in the morning. It's probably where my head has been making sense of stuff whilst I sleep!

        I read something recently, can't remember where, about the crushing effects emails have on your creativity. Historically, I've done probably what most people do and sort through emails first thing in the morning. This article suggested though that if i need to be creative, I should do that first and then bother about emails. Over the past few weeks, I've tested this out, kept my email programme out of sight in favour of doing the creative thing first. My new email checking slot has become early afternoon rather than first thing in the morning. I've been surprised how much more creative I've been and how much more I seem to have created in that space where I used to be checking my emails.

        So I definitely think there is mileage in figuring out when our most creative times are as well as environments.

        • Thanks for your reply Ady, :)

          Yes we need a good weather for holding meetings outside but it could always be an option :) 

          I am the opposite, when I wake up I feel like my brain is still having a nap until later in afternoon, I don't seem to be grasping much in morning. That's why instead of trying to do any thinking I hit the gym in morning to wake my whole body and brain up and once that's done I start to feel like I can tackle the day but the creative thinking always starts towards late afternoon/evening. 

          I could do with becoming more creative in the morning as sometimes if I have to work early and I have to go into a meeting I don't feel good just sitting there and not knowing what is going on because my brain doesn't want to engage so early in the morning ha ha :) so I need to train my brain to be creative also in the morning :D 

          • I hear you loud and clear Monika. I'm certainly a night owl when it comes to creativity too. I think I'll always be that way.

            It's just that over the recent weeks, I've had some busy out of work time and although I do have the flexibility in hours that I work, I've just needed to keep work to during the day. That's forced me to really challenge myself on what holds me back creatively in those times where ordinarily I'm not at my best. It's been interesting to look real closely at why I'm not as creative at certain points in the day and what I could change to remove those barriers. 

            I'm really enjoying this discussion. It matters too. It's been said many times that creativity will be one of the most important skills for us so conversations like this I think are really valuable.

  • On the subject of the impact of environments on creative thinking, take a look at this example in Capital One's Nottingham office:

    http://www.reelmedia.co.uk/our-work/capital-one-going-agile/

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