Psychogeography -an extension of psychoanalysis that in recent years has undergone a renaissance thanks to scientific studies conducted in the field of neuroscience- indicates that being in certain spaces can alter people’s behavior, emotions and even how they perceive time and themselves.
Pedagogy has also delved into psychogeography. That’s why Ken Robinson, in his famous TED talk, indicated that there is evidence that schools undermine children’s creativity right from first grade , a circumstance that came about by introducing instructive learning methodologies encapsulated in knowledge bunkers. This educational paradigm configures learning spaces that leaves tables for seating groups of children and the diversity of materials and colors behind, and introduces a monotonous and hierarchical design found in primary school classrooms. This concept, reminiscent of its military origin, manifests in the rows of desks facing the teacher's table, a design that, in turn, has been replicated in the workplace. However, thanks to occupational ergonomics and psychosociology, this model has long been in decline. The science derived from these disciplines has made many companies realize the importance of recovering part of that kindergarten spirit.
In order to achieve the spacial conditions that favor the generation of innovative DNA, we need to accept that there is no single formula that can be applied in all contexts and that each organization must explore its own model, without, however, having to build from scratch.
After having studied and experienced the subject during the last five years, I offer the aspects that I consider essential to designing workspaces that facilitate creativity and innovation:
- Moderate standardization:
There is a belief that employees can get distracted if they surround themselves with objects other than those strictly necessary for their jobs. However, there are studies that seem to prove otherwise. Personalizing desks helps to generate a sense of well-being that positively affects creativity and productivity.
In Zappos, a pioneer in online shoe-selling, self-organization is enhanced to the point where each team decorates their workspace with plants, trophies, photographs and other things that speak volumes about their tastes, motivations and personal histories. As Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO) states, this freedom for people to personalize their surroundings stimulates peer interaction, cultivates communication and the sharing of experiences. In short, these actions enhance innovation.
At the LEGO offices, designer Rosan Bosch introduced an open-plan ground floor, without tables but with large shelves, to help organize office materials but also enable innovation. The most interesting concept she worked with was that of open spaces; they favor informal “corridor” meetings, which in turn contribute to sharing ideas and spark informal collaborations.
Another great example of the importance of design in the workplace can be found at Valve where personal desks can be easily moved. This means they can be joined to work on projects whose teams are formed by linking the aspirations of each employee.
The option of changing a space easily and quickly is crucial to conduct creative and innovative work sessions and workshops. For example, in Barcelona, the everis Living Lab is a building equipped with furniture, screens, whiteboards and other mobile devices that allow markedly different configurations to be created on the fly; this facilitates attitudinal change, cooperation and the correct application of techniques required in this field, which tend to revolve around large vertical visual panels.
During the economic crisis, Eurogroup Consulting carried out a program of artistic installations in the office, some of which challenged the staff to reflect on the role of consulting in the context of global uncertainty. Other creators altered the meeting spaces to encourage dynamics that differed from the usual ones. Facebook is a benchmark in this and for more than a decade has maintained its own program of artists in residence, with graffiti, murals and other pictorial and sculptural formats around themes such as cultural diversity and communication.
- God’s green earth:
The regulating effect that vegetation has on temperature, humidity and air quality is well known, but it has also been observed that contact with trees and other plants lowers the risk of stress and makes us more open to perceive and process stimuli, beyond our habitual and recurrent cognitive activity patterns.
Many companies even hire services to carry out creative meetings in country houses, gardens or, even right in the middle of the forest.
The color green (in different shades, with the exception of darker ones) is also a good choice for stimulating the birth of new ideas.
In the coming years, and with more and more people working remotely, companies must find a way to help employees preserve each of these aspects. We will pay close attention to the advances in the innovation of digital workplaces, especially those that facilitate the coexistence of the online and the tangible and analogical worlds.