5 Ways to Design Creativity into Work Culture

What do you think of when you think about a creative organizational culture?

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It’s seen more and more that ‘creativity’ becomes all about looks. A creative workplace is expected to look fun and hip with sleek interior design. The stereotypical image of a creative person is often someone who looks really cool and makes beautiful things. A creative atmosphere could be fashioned with a wall full of post-its… No wonder when companies look to build a creative culture, ping-pong tables and hipsterish decorations are in place.

However, as I look at ‘creativity’ through the lens of emotion, I see there’s more layers to it. Through a combination of first-hand and desk research, we identified five feelings that are essential for being creative. Each can then be intentionally designed for.

1. Feeling Well

Physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being is fundamental for creativity because the pains or discomforts inevitably distract people from the work and lead to anxiety and frustration.

→ Designing for Well-being:

Cultivate a culture where ‘self-care’ is highly encouraged by the company. For instance, a company could set up a ritual/tradition for employees to take mental-health days, where people can feel comfortable just having a break without any questions asked. In this way, people are motivated and expected to take care of their body and mind.

2. Feeling OK to Be Bored

Psychologists John Kounios and Mark Beeman have mapped brain waves and found that the “a-ha” moment comes in a calm, relaxed state, when we are doing anything but work.

→ Designing for Boredom:

Use the combined work hours of different teams as a metrics along with performance and satisfaction level to evaluate the well-being of the company creative culture.

3. Feeling the ‘Flow’

A well-known concept about the creative state of mind is “Flow,” named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, where a person is “fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

→ Designing for ‘Flow’:

Allow employees customizing their own work life, and encourage people design their own creative ritual and routine. Questions like “Are you a morning person?” “Do you thrive on changing your work environment from time to time or enjoy having the same spot more?” “How many meeting hours a day is ideal for you?” can help guide people structure their workflow and energy on a more personal level.

4. Being Vulnerable

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change,” said Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, in her TED talk , The Power of Vulnerability. David Kelley also mentioned in his book Creative Confidence that the fear of being judged often prevents people from being more creative. And it takes courage to let oneself lean into the discomfort of experimentation and the uncertainty that comes with it.

→ Designing for Vulnerability:

Hold Show-And-Tell where people share openly their failure and reflection as part of the organizational culture-building.

5. Eager to Be Seen

Creations can be regarded as different kinds of self-expression. At workplace, especially in large companies or organizations, people can easily feel like ‘I’m just a tiny part of the corporate machine.’ However, if people are valued as each unique individual, this desire for expressing oneself can spark high morale.

→ Designing for Self-Expression:

Create space or activities for people to regularly share work and experiences from their personal lives.

Write to us at hello@mattermindstudio, or comment here, if you’re interested in the topic. We’re super passionate about collaborations, and would love to hear your thoughts!