Creativity is not an office space


It’s a state of being.

What do I mean by that? Far too often you hear people say, ‘He or she’s not creative’ or ‘where’s the big idea?’.

Is it any wonder when you look at the workplace of today? In business speak, creativity is designed as a space, when really it’s all about a state of mind and being.

Everyone is creative… if they’re allowed to be. The problem is that in the main, we’re doing ‘non-volatile work in volatile spaces’. We perform mundane tasks (the non-volatile), ticking off a to-do list to please a series of stakeholders, all demanding of our time (the volatility).

To be creative, more curious and to grow personally and professionally, we need to be doing ‘volatile work in non-volatile spaces’.

Volatile work disrupts the norm. It’s the ‘crazy’ that scares your boss. It could potentially make your career. Or perhaps break it.

In a typical business environment, there are far too many demands that disrupt the flow of potentially volatile work. How many times have you moved to a ‘creative space’ to brainstorm only to have someone knock on the door for an urgent phone call or email, disrupting the entire flow of the session? How many of you have been in so-called creative ‘rooms’ that don’t have any external windows or natural light?

If we want to do volatile work, we have to get out of our distracting and needy work spaces, into the open organic air. The trouble is, in our non-stop incessant always-on culture, it’s extremely hard to break that habit.

Those who scuttle off to the gym at lunch, or dare take a full hour for lunch may have experienced the piercing eyes of their managers seemingly at pains to make it known that they’re watching the clock. I’m sure we’ve all felt a huge amount of guilt for taking off and dare I say it, leaving work behind for an hour.

A few years ago I broke that mould. I added a meeting note in my diary for an hour at lunch, entitled “lunch is for lunch, and not for meetings.”

In this time, I head off for a run.

I’m lucky to have natural bush and trails near to where I work and each lunchtime, I’ll head off and shut the brain down. I’m in my non-volatile space. Thinking. It’s the art of doing nothing as I fondly call it.

In this time, I’m still ‘working’ and doing volatile work – subconsciously. I don’t know that I’m working, but I am. I’m completely removed from the day to day tick-box of work and things will just randomly appear in my head as I focus on my next rep of stair climbing.

Just this morning, I’d spent the best part of three hours building an idea for a prospective client and was going nowhere fast. During a 45-minute lunchtime run, the idea not only popped into my head, but I built the process in around 10 minutes. All while focused on climbing some stairs.

So the next time you’re trying to boost creativity in your office or business, don’t look at building a ‘space’… trust your employees to do the right thing and give them the flexibility to ‘think’ in their own time and space. Don’t try to measure what you’re doing and expect them to report back – you’re then creating volatility and defeating the entire process of what you’re aiming to achieve.

Instead, trust the process, the person and know that it will work.