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Make Space for Creativity

Whether it be an in-house basketball court at Wieden&Kennedy or a corporate slide at Google, it has always been a challenge to explain to outsiders why a creative working environment is essential to improving results. Such playful extras are simply not that popular with 2-by-2 cubicle decision makers and are often quickly dismissed as a decadent waste of space.

Understandable, perhaps, in times of austerity and downsizing, but no less unwise. For “wasted” space is in fact the essence of a creative work space. Let me explain. Creativity has very little to do with efficiency. Sure, the intended goal has to be reached, and if possible, exceeded. But the road to success rarely follows a straight line. On the contrary, it is the most crooked, irregular and broken line you could ever imagine. And that’s a good thing. I’ve heard it said from someone who knows what they’re talking about: ‘Creativity is a messy process. Don’t try to solve it. Embrace it.’ Or, loosely translated:  Creativity is a huge waste of time. But the most significant waste of time there is.

If you project this definition of creativity onto the notion of space, then it is creativity that becomes the “waste of space”. The way one deals with this fact determines both literally and figuratively how much space one gives to creativity. This is a conscious decision. It’s not about how much space you need as such but how much space you need to improve your work. More specifically, space needs to fulfil 4 basic functions:

 

1. Space to think

Thinking is still the basis for creativity. For this, you need peace and quiet. And if you can’t find it at your desk, you have to be able to find it somewhere else. In or around the building you’re supposed to reflect in. Is there enough space for silence? A balance between collaborative working spaces and calm corners where you can think in solitude? Can you work outside or brainstorm on foot? The combination of quantity and diversity of space can but aid reflection.

2. Space to collaborate

The time when copywriters and art directors only saw each other when selling an idea to an account is in the past. The creative process nowadays is much more complex. And collaboration has become more important than ever. But is your work environment set up for this? How easily can you find a space where you can work a whole day on a project with 5 people? Is there room to reorganise everything at a moment’s notice? In other words, space has become the most determinate factor in the search for more collaboration.

3. Space to experiment

Experimentation has become a principal requirement for innovation and creativity. It is also a source of pure joy. But such a lab/playground demands extra space. A place without smoke detectors, where you don’t need to clean up and where the cleaning lady isn’t welcome… you simply can’t do without it.

4. Space to breathe

Space to breathe is so important in our hasty lifestyle. The basics are well known: a dining area, a kitchen, a lounge area, a bar, an outdoor area, etc. But you also need spaces to recharge and prevent burn-out. Because space is the ultimate weapon in the war against this particular modern illness.

 

Maybe we’re expecting too much of space. In any case, there are many ways to combine the various possibilities. No matter how you look at it, the lesser space, the lesser the results you can expect to achieve. So, enjoy your wasted space and make more space for creativity.