5 ways to make your workplace more creative

By Adi Gaskell
5 ways to improve workplace creativity
  • Why modern day workplaces need to be more creative
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As creativity and innovation have become more important to our organizations, there has been an increasing emphasis on how to improve workplace creativity.

We've seen workplaces decked out with fussball machines and beanbags, zany colored paint has adorned the walls, some have even installed flumes and the like, all to create an image of a workforce free from potential mental restraints.

I'm not a big fan of such gimmicks, but there are a number of research-backed-ways that you can promote workplace creativity with some pretty straightforward alterations to your workplace.

Sparking the light bulb

Workplace creativity and lighting

A 2013 study from a team of German researchers set out to explore how light affects our creativity.  Participants in the study were asked to complete a range of creative tasks under a range of different lighting conditions, from 150 lux (dim) up to 1500 lux (bright).

The results revealed that the most creative work was produced when people were working under dim lighting.  Indeed, a similar boost was achieved if people were merely primed to think about dim lighting.

The authors believe that the darker light is linked to our perceptions of freedom and self-determination, which are usually central to creativity.

A useful din

Working from coffee shops

It's fairly well known that open plan workspaces have been a disaster for productivity.  Indeed a study from architecture firm Gensler found that such environments are incredibly damaging to both our workplace creativity and productivity.

Suffice to say, with flexible work increasingly popular, many of us have extracted ourselves from office environments, and many now regard their local coffee shop as their office of choice.

Which is great if you aspire to be creative at work.  A study from researchers at the University of Illinois found that the background noise in your typical coffee shop is perfect for creative thoughts to flourish.

The typical coffee shop produces around 70 decibels of noise, which the researchers found was the perfect level for creative thoughts.

Thankfully, if you don't fancy working from your favorite coffee shop, you can replicate this noise level in your home office.  The researchers developed a service called Coffitivity, which aims to provide just the same level of noise via our computer.

Cutting out the caffeine

workplace creativity - caffeine

Speaking of coffee, I would say that regardless of where we work, caffeine is likely to play a role in some way.  Alas, research suggests that caffeine may actually harm our creative urges.

You see, caffeine is known to block the adenosine chemical in our brain.  Adenosine works by inhibiting other chemicals within the brain, therefore allowing us to get to sleep at night, for instance.

Adenosine is also important for creativity however.  The ability for our mind to wander freely is a crucial ingredient for creativity, allowing seemingly disparate ideas to come together in our minds.

The study found that caffeine destroys our ability to do this, instead, it forces the brain to focus intently on the task at hand.  So whilst the noise from a cafe is great, the actual coffee itself probably isn't great for workplace creativity.

Solutions at the bottom of a bottle

Workplace creativity - Problem Solver beer

A better beverage may actually be a beer.  A Danish company have created a new brand of beer called The Problem Solver, which they claim can boost our creativity.

They believe that a blood alcohol level of 0.075% is perfect for creativity, and therefore their product aims to give us just that amount.  Each bottle comes with an indicator on the side to help you determine how much you need to reach your optimum level.

For instance, a 60kg person might need about half a bottle to reach their perfect level, whereas an 85kg person can sink the whole lot.

Daydreaming and creativity

workplace creativity - daydreaming and creativity

A team from the University of Central Lancashire found that we tend to do better on creative tasks when we're bored.

They asked participants to copy out numbers from a phone book, before then completing a creativity test.  They found that they outperformed another group who had skipped the boring task.

The authors suggest that when we're bored, it provides us with a signal that something is not quite right, and we, therefore, begin to look for creative ways out of it.  They think, therefore, that's a natural precursor to innovation.

Wrapping up: improving workplace creativity is not difficult.

So there you have five easy, low-cost ways you can try and make your workplace that little bit more creative.  Hopefully, they're things you can implement regardless of where it is you actually work.

About the author

I scan the horizon for the latest thinking on the future of work. Whether it's the latest research or the hottest new case studies, I aim to dig out the best things happening from around the world for you.

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