Break through the mind-numbing fluorescent lights and white walls of a standard office and create a space that encourages innovation and collaboration. The following tips provide some ideas for making sure that you maximize the potential for innovative thinking among employees at your office. Experiment with the ones that make sense for your company and see what happens!
1 – Promote Semi-Anonymous Idea Sharing
Create a safe space where ideas can be freely thrown around without judgment or criticism. Semi-anonymous brainstorming, either in workshops and sessions or through independent posts at a designated workstation, offers the security in sharing ideas without fear of embarrassment while still allowing project managers or higher-ups to know the source of ideas for praise, credit or leadership.
2 – Encourage Playtime
Offer an open play space featuring creativity-inspiring tools and toys. Play-Doh and modeling clay puzzles and brain-teasers, Slinkies and Magna-Doodles all offer idle creative play. Taking ten minutes to focus elsewhere can help employees let their minds wander, which can lead to different approaches. Collaborative play like scavenger hunts and team-building activities encourage team members or coworkers to cooperate in an exercise unrelated to work projects, giving them the opportunity to discover each other’s strengths and talents.
3 – Daydream in Comfort
Encourage daydreaming, relaxing and brainstorming in a comfortable work environment. Nontraditional furniture, including indoor swings or jungle-gym style structures, remind employees of a more carefree time and can tap into the creativity from their childhood’s limitless imagination. Walls designed of chalkboard, whiteboard or cork encourage collages of ideas and notes, while a Pictionary-like easel or roll of paper and markers promote collective doodles and eliminate the proprietary feeling employees may have over “their” idea by making it everyone’s idea.
4 – Use Social Media
Embrace social media. Common Twitter, Pinterest and Polyvore accounts allow collaborative efforts from employees both in-office and remote. Pinterest allows users to “pin” different pictures, ideas, tutorials and more to virtual corkboards, creating a virtual bulletin board available anywhere. In a similar way, Polyvore creates collages of different elements ideal for designers, decorators and other artistically inclined fields. Twitter enables quick communication to share ideas and promotes rapid-fire brainstorming.
5 – Get Out of the Office and Get in the Zone
Break out of the office. Have meetings on the sidewalk, in the courtyard across the street, at a local coffeehouse or in a completely unexpected location like a bowling alley or skating rink. Taking employees out of their element and into a new experience focuses their attention so totally on the new space and new task, like skating without falling or bowling a strike, that insight and ideas can flow without conscious censoring.
6 – Alter the Little Things
Shake things up in a less “in-your-face” way through simple changes in the office. Having a meeting in which everyone stands, or the furniture is removed and everyone sits on the floor, alters the routine enough to stimulate thought outside of the conventional, day-to-day drudgery. Simple, silly changes like door prizes, raffles, musical chairs and other quick games demonstrate willingness to step back from seriousness, an often-huge roadblock to creativity and innovation.
7 – Hang Out Together
Develop a level of camaraderie and comfort among coworkers, with each other and management, to create an environment that encourages brainstorming and creativity. This can be fostered by organizing fun group activities outside of work, like basketball games, trips to a go kart track, or anything else that would be fun for everyone in the office. A key element to innovation is connection, and employees who are less self-conscious are more likely to share their creative ideas.