Think about your place of work. Would you say that your work environment mimics the sitcom “The Office” or resembles the musical comedy show “Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist”?
What are three words or phrases you would use to describe your workplace? For example,
What are the words or phrases to describe your co-workers? How about,
- Closed off?
What are three words or phrases to describe your superiors? Maybe you would use,
- Rule follower?
- Open to innovative ideas?
Now, look over your list. Overall, what is the climate of your workplace? Do you look forward to going to work? Are you friends with your co-workers? When you wake up in the morning do you look forward to going to work or do you dread it?
No place of work is perfect, it always has its ups and downs. Tasks we like and tasks we hate, People we like and people – and well, let’s just say – we tolerate.
By now you are probably wondering what this has to do with creativity. In the last several articles we have published over the past few weeks, we have been talking about the 4 P’s of creativity and this is the final one – Press/environment.
- Our definition of creativity is the production of something new and valuable.
- Over the past few blogs, we discussed the creative person and established that we all are creative.
- We also discussed the creative process by establishing three broad stages of Creative Problem Solving (CPS): Clarification, Transformation, and Implementation. Remember, these three stages are flexible, and you can start the process at any point. This process is rarely linear and may need to be repeated several times before clearly solving a problem.
- In our last blog, we discussed the third P – the creative product. Think back to our definition of creativity – it is the production of something. That “something” can be an idea that turns into anything new and valuable.
*if you want to go back and read the original articles click here!*
The final P refers to the environment we work in – which is inescapable. We may be able to change some things or we may just have to adapt. But the elements of the press can help or hinder our creativity and the outcome of our work.
Do you thrive in your press or do you feel suppressed?
Having a firm grasp on your press can help guide decisions, maximize creativity, and help you find your joy.
There are several different factors to consider when you evaluate your creative environment. Look back at the original list you created at the start of this blog.
Compare your list to the one below.
Physical factors – Under what conditions do you work best?
- Temperature – too hot or too cold? Would you rather have a fan blowing on you or a blanket wrapped around you?
- Volume – too loud, or even too quiet? Some people work best when there is background noise – some can’t concentrate unless it is silent.
- Is your office crowded or do you feel lonely and secluded?
- Is the break room inviting or sterile? Is there a vending machine or a free snack room and all the coffee you can drink?
- Is parking easy or does it take 20 extra minutes to find a spot and walk to the entrance?
- Do you have the resources around you that you need to do your job, or do you find yourself running out of supplies, taping a broken part over and over?
- The tools, such as your laptop – does it work well or have lots of glitches, causing downtime and breaking momentum?
- Is there someone to answer questions if you have them so you can get on with your work, or do you feel left to fend for yourself?
The psychological factors – You can have all the physical elements set up just right, but if you don’t have the psychological factors in place it may be impossible to be creative. How do the characteristics of climate impact worker creativity?
Goran Ekvall researched this idea for over 20 years and developed ten major characteristics of climate that have a direct impact on worker creativity. Let’s break them down:
Is there a challenge waiting for you at work each day or is it the “same old same old?” Do you feel like you are part owner of the company or is this “just a job?”. If your company has a low challenge environment the individual doesn’t feel important or valued? Think about the comic strip Dilbert by Scott Adams. This comic strip is famous for getting into the minds of everyday workers.
At the end of the day are you counting down the seconds until you can leave or are you invigorated and ready to step up to the challenge you have been given? Creative people need to feel challenged in their environment. They want to feel like what they do has meaning and that when the company succeeds – they succeed.
Do you truly love your job? We are not expecting that every day at work will be sunshine and unicorns but overall – do you love what you are doing and where you are doing it?
Are you doing what you want and how you want? Do you have the ability to work independently and freely? Or is your work overly defined and structured for you? Are you free to “take the ball and run with it” or is it easier to just do what you are told and not question it?
Just about every job has requirements that are non-negotiable, but within that framework, you can be creative when you have the personal freedom to make some of the decisions and manage tasks and projects in the way that works best for you.
Are you free to “take the ball and run with it” or is it easier to just do what you are told and not question it? Creativity comes from the freedom to operate the way that fits you best, sometimes that’s with lots of structure, sometimes that’s with no strings attached.
Think about what works best for you!
Dynamism and Liveliness
What is the purpose of your organization? Does your purpose correspond with the organization’s? How often does change occur? When you walk into work is there a sense of energy and excitement? If a company’s climate is lacking dynamism the employees will feel a lack of “buy-in” and creativity will be limited.
Trust and Openness
We have all heard of the trust fall – maybe you’ve even experienced it. “Team building” in the workplace has become a buzzword. There are books and actual training on how to strengthen your team professionally or not.
It all comes down to trust and openness. Can you trust the people you work with to support you and listen? Are you and your co-workers open to new ideas? Are you treated with respect? Do you feel valued? Is there a sense of community?
The old adage of “We are all in this together” needs to be front and center in a creative environment.
You have seen it and maybe even experienced this stereotypical scene. Employees are standing around the water cooler or in the breakroom chatting and then the boss walks by and says “Get back to work. This isn’t a coffee house.”
Yet, some of the best ideas come when you are allowed to brainstorm and explore how you might try things differently.
Some of our best ideas can come from waiting in line at the copy machine and brainstorming a solution to a client’s problem. It doesn’t have to be a planned meeting – just an impromptu chat. Having unplanned discussions can bring fresh ideas and different perspectives that are much needed in a creative environment.
Playfulness and Humor
When was the last time you had fun at work? Are you always stressed or do you have a degree of relaxation? Can you have a laugh with your co-workers? Are there celebrations?
Humor, appropriate humor that is, when shared can help employees (co-workers and bosses) enjoy coming to work and can make the day that much more enjoyable.
If this atmosphere is stifled and people feel uncomfortable or fearful or not respected, then creativity becomes limited and the creative person shuts down.
There is a fantastic children’s book called “What do you do with an Idea”? Written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom. It tells the story of a boy who has a big idea and as his confidence grows so does his idea. Sometimes, it is easy to come up with an idea but difficult to get others to listen and consider it–and even harder to actually set a plan in motion.
Once an idea is accepted (and only a small percentage can be) it takes patience, cooperation, and support to develop an idea into a full-blown solution. In fact, there are usually many more failures than successes. Are ideas welcomed and supported at your workplace or are they quickly dismissed?
Do bosses and co-workers consider your ideas and give positive and constructive feedback? Is there a sense of cooperation amongst your teammates to make sure your idea gets all the support it needs? Even if the idea fails? Or do you get the “this is how we always do things around here?” kind of response?
In order to cultivate creativity in the workplace, we must be open to ideas and, when the right idea comes along, work together to champion people and their ideas.
Creative people need to encounter different perspectives. The challenge of exchanging new viewpoints and ideas gives people the freedom to discover and learn. Does everyone have a voice in your press? Or are only a few listened to? Do you have the freedom to express your ideas safely when you disagree or offer an opposing viewpoint? Is there a “do you know who I am?” attitude with your boss or is the environment more collaborative? When there is a creative environment, every voice is heard and every idea valued.
Say you have a new idea but it might be a little risky – does your workplace welcome those ideas? Is there a system for evaluating and managing risk rather than avoiding it? If the idea fails is it seen as a learning opportunity? Many young people struggle with the idea of risk-taking and failure. See our past blog on failure and how you can celebrate it. Employees, bosses, students, need the freedom to experiment and try new plans.
Conflicts happen. They are a part of life. But how are they handled at your workplace? Conflicts “affect a person’s self of well-being and happiness. In the words of author Jon Michael Fox, “When conflict is high in an organization, the psychological press becomes extremely stressful. Staff turnover is high and morale is low.” When conflicts happen are the problems or disagreements worked out in a reasonable manner? Or is there an environment of emotional traps?
Each of the dimensions above can range from low to high, and you can use this list to analyze where you work or create. Interviews usually end with “do you have any questions for me?” Use these descriptors to help you get a clear understanding of the workplace climate and culture (press). You may love what you do but we want to love where you are doing it as well. Creativity needs all 4 of the P’s to thrive.
At Curiosity to Create we believe that creativity is an essential factor in establishing life-long learners. No matter what stage of life you are in – student, career, retirement, there is always an opportunity to be creative.
Follow us on our social media for even more tips on how to increase your creative potential!
Davis, Gary. Creativity Is Forever. 5th edition, 2014., Kendall Hunt Publishing, Dubuque IA.
Jon Michael Fox & Ronnie Lea Fox, Exploring the Nature of Creativity, 3rd edition, 2010, Kendall Hunt Publishing, Dubuque, IA
Yamada, K., Besom, M., Bellair, L., Forster, S., Clark, M., & Riedler, A. et al. (2019). What do you do with an idea?. Compendium.