Creativity & Innovation Part 2 | Design Implications

Part Two

by John Scott

Part one of Creativity & Innovation Design Implications touched on the desire of companies to create innovation labs prior to understanding the “why” and “how” of innovation. Understanding the “why” and the “how” of innovation can help an organization build the right team in order to pursue these new results. In an ideal world, an innovative team would be made up of each organizational culture (Collaborate, Compete, Control, and Create), which brings us to the Competing Values Framework™.

Competing Values Framework™

At the onset, innovative teams need more Create and Compete individuals (Create develops the creative ideas and the Compete creates a playbook, a way of getting finances and resources together to prevent the creative ideas from imploding). As the idea grows, Collaborate individuals are brought in to continue to develop customer relationships. And then finally, Control individuals are needed to create the structure, processes, and hierarchy. This is called the Organizational Growth Cycle. Too many companies stop after the reds take over, thus innovation stalls out (or dies). RIP.

Workplace Matters for Innovation

Let’s go back to that corporate conference room for an update:

Congratulations! You have achieved nothing but a new designation for a space that must now be the catalyst for new innovative ideas, products, and/or services! What about the humans?

What companies don’t realize, is that innovation is driven by solid ideas; and, those solid ideas come about when individuals and groups have the ability to perform convergent (focus) thinking and divergent (relaxation/restorative) thinking… all done in MORE than one space. It is a culmination of spaces that support creative thought and, ultimately, innovation. It also involves the spaces in between spaces! Easy to say, hard to do! Or is it?

A creative workplace rhythm that considers privacy, structure of activity, and user control can provide guidelines for developing spaces for individuals and groups.

Creative Rhythm Design Implications


For spaces that allow an individual or group to fully focus while limiting distractions (both acoustical and visual), a space with full physical barriers is ideal. The location of these spaces should be off the beaten path (primary circulation), limiting distractions. Also consider a room with a view (to nature) that will provide moments of “reset” for the brain. Partial virtual barriers (think ear buds or headphones) can be ideal in open environments for those who may not have the ability to freely move throughout the workplace (tethered to one particular space by technology), or for those that could use a little energy from the buzz of activity (but not too much to derail their work). Having no barriers is best for relaxing and recharging (think about going outdoors – there are no walls in nature). These spaces should provide plenty of opportunities to rest (changes in posture and orientation) along with replenishing the body and brain with food/drink.

Structure of Activity

The more predictable (or legible) spaces are, the easier it is to conserve resources for focusing. Being creatures of habit, rituals and routines allow us to slide into that focus mode of working with spaces that convey their purpose and intent to the end-user will provide opportunities for less stress in the workplace. Novel or flexible spaces can provide variety when needing a change of pace from more intense work. This allows employees choices in when/where/how to relax, opening up opportunities for surprise and to connect socially with others.

User Control

The more focus that is needed, the more that an individual or group needs to insulate themselves from others. Being able to control one’s environment (re: lighting, acoustics – private room, posture – sit to stand, or even orientation – ergonomic seating for extended periods of task work vs. lounge seating for reading) can help enhance the ability to focus. Embedding information and externalization of information (writing or posting materials on walls, etc.) is very beneficial in learning (and ultimately retaining) new information. With less user control available for recharging, we are more subject to the actions of others. Here, divergent thinking can be enhanced by serendipitous interactions with others.

For more insight into creativity, innovation, and other ways to effectively work together, please visit Designing for Innovation.

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