Your Work Environment Can Support Innovation Without Derailing Your Business

If you’ve seen the movie Office Space, you should have a pretty good idea what dampens morale and stops innovation dead in its tracks. Aside from a self-serving, distracted boss and an go-nowhere business model, the work environment is bleak to the point of headache-inducing.

Sparking creativity would be next to impossible under those conditions. Which may be a benefit, depending on your corporate culture, type of business, long-term goals, etc.

In a recent Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast, The War on Creativity, host Julie Douglas notes, “No one really wants creativity, especially corporations, […] where deviating from the norm [invokes vulnerability]. They’re [employees] bucking the system […]. Creativity is hailed by the media [however] most [creatively-driven] businesses end in failure. […] Uncertainty is at the basis here of creativity, and that’s kind of a dirty word in corporations […]. You want to have every nook and cranny of a corporation sanitized of uncertainty, because that is when the presence of it could usher in unforeseen costs and turn up revelations that might not square with that corporation’s culture.”

So, companies may feel creativity is counter to their culture and brand, because it implies instability and risk.

If your business model is in large part a low risk, staid, or highly regulated enterprise, then why consider introducing creativity and innovation? The goal may not be to encourage everyone to be creative and derail your business model, but injecting your corporate culture with an innovative mind-set does not have to imply an increase in risk for the following reasons:

  • Good ideas, at any level, aren’t stifled due to hierarchical layers – Employees are encouraged to suggest new creative (more effective or efficient) ways to get work done (Elise Hu, Microsoft Vs. Medium: A Tale Of Two Office Cultures)
  • Sub-committees stop routinely scheduling off-site meetings – Sub-committees can meet in workspaces that are conducive to brainstorming new ideas, otherwise the implication is that the workplace is uninspiring
  • Foster a sense of well-being (and therefore, overall wellness) by providing quiet respite areas, or collaborative spaces, so employee break-time is perceived as more than time away from work, but instead, time to share ideas and insights and find camraderie
  • Your one-size-fits all workspace may be contributing to turnover – more dynamic and flexible workspace will create value for recruitment and retention purposes that says, we value you as an employee, and a person

Introducing innovation into your workplace and culture does not have to start with laborious business planning and decision making.  A great article by Belle Beth Cooper, The Science Behind Your Ideal Work Environment, covers some basic factors to fostering creativity, in essence, it’s simply helping to reduce factors that suppress it. Once the environmental and emotional stresses have been examined, survey employees to uncover deeper motivational issues, a workspace wishlist, or other continuous improvement suggestions. Simply asking for feedback is a sign of innovation, because it is an invitation for positive change.


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