5 Ways Collaborative Offices Spawn Creativity

More and more we are recognising the benefits of having a creative workplace particularly when all around us new innovations and practices are changing our competitive environments. The most innovative companies also have the strongest internal identities and actively encourage creative problem solving. Its all paying off too, creative workplaces make for stronger more competitive businesses.

So what underlies a structurally creative workplace? We think it begins with collaboration and taking a look at our own work practices we see five ways in particular where this shows.

“Innovate or Die”
— Bill Gates, and many many others

One - Inclusive Workshops

Workshops are like pressure cookers for ideas. Including different professionals in well structured workshops has proven to be a great way of cultivating various design solutions. Being inclusive means that theres no saying "no" whilst in the workshop. We consider everything and ideas are allowed to develop over the time we spend workshopping. Sometimes an idea might start off a little weak or incomplete, but allowing it to grow and change with the conversation could turn it into the basis for a very strong and innovative design. If you cut ideas off at the beginning you run this risk of missing these opportunities and this narrows the scope of creativity. 
Of course there comes a point when you need to sit down and sort the wheat from the chaff, but we suggest leaving that till last. Having an inclusive workshop is about putting all your ideas on the table.


Two - Social Culture

Rigid hierarchical workplaces are stressful and they stifle initiative. If you work in a job where you feel like your ideas and opinions are not being heard, chances are you will stop offering them and little by little the company looses out on opportunities to actively improve the work it does.

Working within an open social culture is liberating in contrast. Everyone in the office is free to offer opinions and share their thoughts. New ideas crop up in the most unlikely conversations and a social culture that doesn't shy from differing perspectives is more often an innovative workplace. Being collaborative necessitates social openness and constant sharing, it makes for a less stressful office and a free flow of thoughts and ideas.


Three - Diverse Knowledge

Relying on old faithful solutions to design problems is great way to quickly come to some ok outcomes, but your outcomes will remain just that: ok. If you want to develop something new, if you want solutions that are innovative and not just adequate then you need to rely on more then the same stock of knowledge each time.

When we collaborate we draw on the accrued knowledge and experience of a diverse set of people. Having an open social culture means all this knowledge is easily shared and accessible. Put it  all together and you have a recipe for innovative solutions to different problems. In our office we all have very different sets of knowledge and professional know-how, this is what we bring to each project and the diversity of opinions lets us challenge and improve each idea we come up with.


Four - Aim for Multiple Solutions

Trying to find the one holygrail solution is a bit of a misguided approach. The truth is that many different design solutions may work appropriately. Its worth while building this belief into the creative process from the start. If you begin by expecting that you will come up with multiple solutions and that a number of these will fulfil the brief, it gives you a lot of freedom to get creative. Similar to what we said about inclusive workshopping; dont start restricting the process until you really need to.

In our ID8Rs we present clients with a suite of different design solutions that are appropriate to their brief. In the end the building thats built is often a mixture of different parts or schemes from the many designs we came up with. We recommend aiming to come up with multiple solutions when your working on a creative project. When the time comes to pick a winner, you'll have a wide range of solutions to choose from.


Five - Good Feedback Loops

Finally, you cannot underestimate the importance of feedback. Healthy feedback loops throughout a project keeps you on the right path. Being able to constructively critique the work you do is necessary for improving it and not seeking out feedback from yourself and others wont let this happen. 

Most important of all is to actively find out what your clients think. This means finding out not just whether they like your work or not, but why do they like or dislike it? What parts were best? What needs improvement? This seems like a logical thing to do but it's a very easy step to skip as you want to move through projects as quickly as possible.

What we suggest is taking the time to consider your feedback loops. Ask if there are parts of your creative process that are missing review. Seek out constructive criticism and act on it.

So there you have it; five ways that collaborative offices encourage creativity. This is by no means an exhaustive list so if you have any tips or tricks you use to encourage creativity and innovation let us know in the comments below.