A creative workspace is key to innovation, accelerated problem-solving, and fostering a work culture in which creativity and collaboration thrives. This was at the forefront of our minds when we built our studio, and The Inktank – our creative workshop space.
And we’re not alone in recognising its tangible value. The huge success of WeWork, whose co-working spaces have attracted 40,000 members across 23 cities since 2010, marks an unignorable shift in what workers want and expect from their work environment.
With half of the workforce expected to be working remotely by 2020, it’s essential that employers who want to see their employees’ faces in the office, create workspaces that they will actually want to spend time in. Today, a creative working environment is no longer an indulgence or a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a crucial investment in both your organisation and its people.
Brief encounters lead to brilliant ideas
On re-designing the Pixar offices in 1999, Steve Jobs said: ‘If a building doesn’t encourage [collaboration], you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity. So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.’
Jobs’ philosophy was ahead of the curve in the late 90s, when office cubicle farms were still the norm. But since then, his vision of organic collaboration has been adopted by Google, Facebook, NASA and Silicon Valley.
And for good reason. Chance encounters between employees – otherwise known as ‘collisions’ – have been proven to improve innovative thinking. Creative ideas don’t always conform to time sheets or floor plans. Often, innovation is sparked by spontaneity.
In fact, collisions have proven so effective in inspiring creative thought that retail store Zappos have introduced a new metric – ‘collisionable hours’ – to measure the productivity of a space. And each WeWork office is designed to increase the chance of serendipitous encounters through carefully positioned photocopiers and water-coolers.
A change of posture is a change of perspective
One of the main attractions of co-working spaces is the flexibility they offer. Not only can members work to their own creative rhythm, but they also have the freedom to move around their workspace.
The myth that anyone can achieve one eureka moment after another while slumped at the same monitor each day is baffling. And according to Scott Witthoft, designer of Stanford University’s innovative d.school, posture is key to performance.
Witthoft observes how different postures encourage different behaviours; relaxed positions are great for analysis and critique, while an upright stance provokes more active engagement. He advises anyone re-designing a workspace: ‘Remove the desk from the equation, give people permission to assume alternative postures, and watch what happens’.
It’s probably not practical to ditch all the desks in your office, but you can still encourage flexible movement in other ways. Darren Fell, founder of Brighton-based Crunch Accounting, suggests ‘walking meetings’. Being on the go, he says, will help get your creative cogs turning.
Chris Wilson, our creative director, explains how the Scriberia studio was designed with flexibility in mind: ‘We use versatile furniture, such as moveable walls-on-wheels and bookcase-whiteboard hybrids, to encourage flexible working. It’s a great way to get people away from their desks and thinking creatively.’
Can they see what you mean?
Alongside flexibility, visual thinking was, of course, an integral part of Scriberia’s collaborative studio design.
Scriberia’s creative director, Dan Porter, explains: ‘Having as many walls to draw on as possible helps make our ideas more visible to the rest of the team, so we can pull someone into our creative problem solving more immediately.’ And our Inktank space was designed with exactly this in mind.
Dan explains, ‘If you’re doing things the same way all the time, you’ll always get the same results. The Inktank space gives our clients the chance to get away from their work environment and think differently. We immerse people in the way we work for a day, using visuals to work through problems quickly and arrive at new solutions.’
Better when we’re together
In 1924, social psychologist Floyd Allport performed a number of experiments to determine how people perform in collaborative environments.
His theory of social facilitation, or the audience effect, resolves that for the majority of tasks, people perform far better when in a shared space, regardless of whether they’re cooperating or competing with each other.
His research shows that simply being in the presence of other people’s creative energy is enough to boost our own. We’re social creatures, after all. More recently studies have indicated that the sense of community fostered in co-working spaces helps members find their work more meaningful.
Our scribe, Sara, who has visited some of the coolest co-working spaces around the globe (just check out her Instagram), notes: ‘A lot of freelancers turn to co-working spaces for the social aspect. Freelancing can be lonely, but co-working spaces encourage you to interact with other creative minds.’
This is a huge part of WeWork’s success, and they regularly voice their vision ‘to create a place you join as an individual, ‘me’, but where you become part of a greater ‘we’.’
At Scriberia, we’ve found that our (craziest, and occasionally our most brilliant) ideas flow when the whole team gets together at the lunchtime table. And the friendships we build in this social setting, make for stronger working relationships.
Ileana Stigliani, assistant professor in design and innovation at Imperial College Business School, advises businesses to break away for creative thought. She recommends ‘a walk in the woods, a visit to an art gallery, or just listen to music to get inspiration.’
We’ve written before how practicing wider than your discipline can help expand your horizons. And our scribe, Sara, reflects that her favourite co-working spaces were those that encouraged members to dabble in new activities. In Indonesia, she cooked a communal meal. In Berlin, she tried some afternoon yoga.
This is an age-old trick for nurturing creative thought, helping workers to combat tunnel-vision and draw from new inspiration. And that’s why the Scriberia studio is full to the rafters with books that cover a wide spectrum of disciplines – from sign-writing to ‘cosmigraphics’ – to help our illustrators see their problems in a new light.
And it doesn’t have to be as eccentric as yoga; you can broaden your team’s horizons by simply picking up a pencil every so often.