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The Science Behind Creating An Innovative Work Environment

Pablo Picasso once advised to  'learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.'  In many ways, entrepreneurs are not unlike artists, as it's their creative drive that paves the way for the new - with the power to bring about profound change. Thinking beyond the status quo is not only an imaginative process for the artistic; it also engenders innovation - or the crux of what keeps businesses alive and growing. And for employees, understanding what gets your creative gears turning is what manifests career-defining milestones. At Garage Society, we’re all about creating an environment for new ideas to sprout, develop, and be shared. This week, we’re looking at the ideal conditions for nurturing creativity, and how any startup can incorporate these practices into their company culture!

Safe and Sound

A welcoming and comfortable workspace makes all the difference when it comes to productivity and creativity. Apple, Pixar, and Google just some of many notorious for going to great lengths to design workspaces prime for innovation. Environmental psychology literature often explores the relationship of how our surroundings affect us, often delving deep into neurology. Without going into too much technicality, here are some scientific findings that we found useful:

  1. Sound: An ambient noise level is ideal for facilitating productivity because it lends to abstract processing. While silence is great for when you need to focus intensely on a task, ambient music or sounds is best for letting your mind wander.
  2. Temperature: Being too cold or too hot is also a distraction that can stifle creativity and productivity. While an optimal temperature varies from person to person, knowing which temperature you’re most comfortable in can help you decide what to wear to accommodate for that.
  3. Lighting: Contrary to what we may expect, extremely bright lighting actually causes us to feel constrained, so dimmer, natural light is best for making us more inclined to take risks in decision-making (Source).

Breaking the Mold

Aside from physical conditions, the other side of enabling a creative process is finding, or — on the part of the employer — providing opportunities for experimentation. Often, time is the most valuable resource to be negotiated in this case. Allowing the space and time for employees to work outside of a structured framework is a simple way to achieve this. Going beyond the repetition of daily tasks conditions your brain to think outside the box in terms of problem-solving, expanding your cognitive sphere. This idea goes hand-in-hand with the practice of cross-pollination with other roles, which has proven effective for task execution and innovation (Source).

The Happy Camper

Perhaps the most basic yet significant element of enabling creativity relates to your mood.  Studies have shown that happy people are more likely to engage in innovative thinking, and that an upbeat work environment lends to creativity.  We’re more likely to take a flexible approach to our thinking when we’re happy because optimism, or a positive outlook on the future, expand our scope of imagination. Bringing about a positive outlook is a complex topic, but overall, team building efforts and constructive management are the main determinants of happy employees.  While workspaces need to strike a balance between work and fun, the general rule is that a little laughter can go a long way (Source).

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