Can we all be creative in the right environment?

Our Design Director at Paramount, Helen Bartlett, is occasionally asked to talk about office design and the impact it can have on businesses.

On 21 May she was asked to speak on BBC Radio Wales’ Wales at Work. The topics on discussion included, the ways that businesses can encourage their staff to develop killer ideas, the concept that anyone can be creative and the impact office design can have on creativity.

Helen was joined by Prith Biant, founder of The Creative Thinking Company, to answer the question, can we all be creative in the right environment?

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Breaking through the ‘I’m not creative’ barrier

Prith spoke about the obstacles and pressures that people can face when trying to ‘be creative’, very often labelling themselves as not being creative. We’re all born creative, but we learn to use the more rational, logical part of our brains as we grow up, creating barriers to what’s commonly held as ‘being creative’. In order to break through these self-constructed barriers we have to re-learn the skills of being creative. Lots of people will say, ‘I’m not creative’, but if you remove that label and redefine what creativity actually means, you’ll quickly realise that you are a creative individual.

What does ‘being creative’ mean, anyway?

Creativity isn’t necessarily about painting pictures, designing things or working in the media, it’s about thinking differently, solving problems and coming up with new ideas. The blocks and barriers that we create are very often the things that limit our own perceived creativity.

Self-consciousness is also a major barrier; the mental block that people have when they convince themselves that people will think their ideas are stupid or worthless. Everyone should have the courage to say, ‘I think we should do this’ because, if more people did it, it would give other people the courage to do it. As a result, it’s more likely to happen more often and more naturally.

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Spaces to be creative in

Finding a physical space in the workplace to ‘be creative’ in is obviously an important aspect of this. I spoke about this being exactly what we try to encourage, whether a business is considered to be a creative industry or not.

It’s all about creating alternative spaces within an office that allow people to go off and think creatively. This might be a brainstorming area with write-on walls that allows people to record and share all of their ideas, potentially alleviating the issue that some might have about their ideas not being ‘good enough’. Combining a business culture that promotes and inspires creativity in staff, along with physical spaces that foster team work and collaboration will result in people who not only feel motivated to be creative but also believe that they can be.

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Comfortable enough to be creative

Prith agreed that being in the right mind-set is a huge part of creativity and creating an environment that people feel comfortable in can offset any negativity or lack of self-belief they might have. More and more businesses are looking at the way they work, using hot-desking to change the way that people work and seeing a positive impact on their working practice. Recognising that being sat in front of a computer all day isn’t the best place to inspire creativity is the first step towards businesses creating spaces that encourage informal meetings, discussions and the chance encounters that spark inspiration and innovative ideas.

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Creatively together or creatively alone

Thinking creatively can happen in a number of ways, while it’s likely that collaborating with others will be a benefit, sometimes it can help to have your own space to go to and ‘think creatively’ on your own. Having a working environment with different areas that allow you to come up with ideas in various ways, whether as a group of people or on your own, is vital.

I’m slightly regretting it now, but I actually admitted that many of my ideas come to me in the shower! Not that I‘m suggesting all businesses should add a large volume of showers to their workplace so that people can disappear off for half an hour in order to foster creativity. The point is, that the most creative thought processes are likely to happen when you are at your most relaxed, in a calm, less formal environment, something that should be taken into consideration during an office fit out.

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Not everyone can be Google, but everyone can be creative

Google was inevitably name-checked as a leading force in encouraging creativity in the workplace with their innovative and inventive office designs, including their Orange County offices that we wrote about recently, I wanted to point out that, while they lead the way in stunning office design, the creative sector that Google work in is bound to be reflected in the layout of the workplace and it’s important to look at the way that creativity can be reflected in businesses who work in sectors that aren’t perceived as being particularly creative.

While it’s still available, you can listen to the whole episode of Wales at Work on the BBC iPlayer, Prith and I appear from the 23 minute mark.

I’d just like to thank BBC Radio Wales for the opportunity and hopefully, the next time I speak, I won’t mention anything about my bathroom habits!

Written by Helen Bartlett, Design Director