What kind of work environment arouses creativity

Career & Salary

Do you know that? You are in a more or less uniform and enjoyable, not very challenging routine. Your brain has switched to "autopilot" and is in energy-saving mode. This is where the image of a "hammock" comes to mind. If you then add a good portion of stress, performance and deadline pressure, the absolute "tunnel vision" follows, which is only geared towards completing the task according to the same, learned pattern. And in this situation you demand a creative solution from yourself, a "flash of inspiration" that enables you to break new ground. An idea that questions all previous business models and provides an answer to the suddenly appearing competitor.

A theoretical situation? Not at all. Employees of German companies are increasingly confronted with the fact that continuous improvements to the same routines or an even greater increase in efficiency and standardization are not enough to keep pace with market forces. So the question arises: What has to be done so that (finally) fresh ideas bubble up and the creativity synapses that were buried in childhood are reactivated?

Executives play Lego

By the way, childhood is a good keyword in this context. Anyone who observes children playing with Lego looks envious and amazed at what is being created there and which stories are interpreted by means of the "small works of art". If you compare them with "Lego Serious Play exercises" by adults, in the course of which executives had to create prototypes of business models, it becomes clear: the older test persons needed five times more time than the kids, their works were far less impressive and the Stories not nearly as creative.

Which brings us back to the question: How do we reawaken this creativity? And in connection with this question there are other question marks: What framework conditions have to be created? And what impulses do we need in order to be really creative again and not just imitate methods such as design thinking etc.? Here are some experiences of the framework conditions in our company and personally that have led to more creativity, new ideas and successes.

Leaders don't ask for permission ...

... they ask for forgiveness. Admittedly, this slogan is not really new and has been ruminated a thousand times in leadership books. However, from one point of view it is essential. You can replace "Leaders" with "I" in the sense of "I".

Large companies in particular draw purpose and meaning from a close-knit network of rules, processes and defined standards. This was also very useful for a long time, as standardization in stable times and fixed framework conditions can leverage enormous potential for efficiency and effectiveness. Only these signs have changed. We are no longer in a really stable environment. This is shown by terms such as "agile", "disruptive" or "Black Swan", which all stand for one thing, namely change. Recourse to the past, which is all too often the basis for many planning processes, does not help much.

In order to produce something really new - and this presupposes creativity - it is crucial to consistently question the existing. This also means replacing existing rules and processes (apart from legal, reputation and compliance issues) that no longer make sense in the new situation with a new and separate procedure. It is inevitable that this will lead to resistance. But just talking does not help here: Do not ask for permission, but choose the most sensible and expedient path from your point of view for the company and ignore unnecessary things such as certain meetings. Exploring limits can sometimes be helpful here. It is important to say at this point: This is not a call for non-compliant behavior, the legal framework and the value construct should of course be adhered to.

Where was your own opinion again?

Author and social development specialist, Sir Ken Robinson, is known for his razor-sharp analysis of our socialization and education. It is fundamental that we are consistently trained off many of the children's skills through our training and subsequent job profiles. Own opinion - no chance. What counts is the textbook, the definition of the professor, the process manual or the announcement from the supervisor. This is then also nicely reflected in the appraisal system: Good grades and performance appraisals are only given for conformity. Please do not deviate! Lateral thinkers are often encouraged on paper, but ultimately only disturb the circles of the respective superiors. And the much-invoked error culture is, of course, just an alibi. But the fact is that errors are a deviation from the norm. Ultimately, they contain the creative ideas that have the required radicalism and ensure sustainability. The inflationary use of lean approaches such as the "Six Sigma" management system does not exactly contribute to a higher tolerance for errors. Of course, there are areas that absolutely require zero tolerance for errors, for example in the operation of a nuclear power plant or aircraft. But it shouldn't apply in the creative sector.

To tear you out of the usual rut

In order to be creative, it is crucial to be able to leave the familiar environment and take in new impulses and stimuli. You are rarely really creative in the same place - especially not at a barren desk. In our company, for example, we decided to design our work environment together with an international team of artists and to completely forego permanent workplaces. Instead, there are very different types of rooms that are not only characterized by artistic design, but also a high degree of flexibility and functionality. Moving to another room can lead to the flash of inspiration you are looking for. And so that this is not lost, you can write on wall surfaces or whiteboards almost everywhere.

  1. source
    Christiane Stenger, "Don't leave your brain unattended! - Instructions for your head", 252 pages, EAN 9783593500126, ISBN 978-3-593-50012-6
  2. Be happy
    Be happy. Especially if you're looking for ideas.
  3. Reformulating a problem
    If necessary, rephrase a problem.
  4. Move
    Or take a few steps: Gain distance and thus new perspectives.
  5. Distract yourself
    If you have a mental block or a mental dead end, distract yourself. Look at something funny.
  6. employment
    Discover something you always wanted to do. You actually already know what that is.
  7. Think from multiple perspectives
    Consciously consider your question from different perspectives right from the start.
  8. The first idea is not always the best
    Don't be satisfied with the first idea that comes up.
  9. Break with old patterns
    Break up old patterns. Try to do something new.
  10. Amaze yourself
    Opportunities to be amazed open up every day. Write down your discoveries and amaze others too.

In this context, art has a special effect on many, as it opens up new perspectives and, through deliberate irritation, repeatedly stimulates reflection. Art does not necessarily have to be kept in your own company. That can also be a visit to a gallery or a museum. The change of room or the change of scenery is decisive. Solutions to problems and new ideas can also come from jogging. Or just before going to sleep when the light is off. The elimination of visual stimuli sharpens the senses and helps with concentration. This is the reason why companies create "dark rooms" for their employees so that they can reflect on their thoughts in total darkness.

Another essential source of new ideas and creativity, in addition to the direct environment, is personal exchange with people. For this reason, for example, our team conducts regular excursions, be it to events, to interviews with interesting people to talk to or to a workshop on a houseboat. We try to integrate at least one of these impulses into the workflow every week. It works very well now. It is important that the company understands, supports or demands the usefulness and value of such "excursions". Incidentally, it is not always necessary to ask about the meaning of the respective trip or interview. It then arises by itself.

Activity Based Working

Even if there is a lot of literature that underlines the importance of movement for stimulating brain activity, many find it difficult to incorporate physical activities into everyday work and to get the 10,000 steps per day required in many places. The constant office air and environment do the rest to ensure that routines and impulses as well as the activation of the brain - the basis for new ideas and creative thoughts - fail. Many offices are also designed in such a way that they support precisely this behavior, for example with chairs that are as comfortable as possible, which invite you to linger for a long time. Short distances that are as optimized as possible and no fresh air are further negative factors. The introduction of "Activity Based Working", that is, working environments adapted to different work situations and the resulting frequent change of rooms, has already resulted in more movement in our company. An attempt is also made. avoiding longer periods of sitting in meetings or getting up in between. Sports equipment in the office is also conceivable, for example a treadmill with a shelf for the laptop. In addition, I personally organize as many meetings as possible in the form of "TWALKS", which means: I consciously leave the office, which not only leads to more movement and fresh air, but also to new impressions and impulses. This is not really a new finding either. Steve Jobs has attended many of his meetings in the form of TWALKS.

To be alone with your idea

Sometimes it can be helpful to avoid any kind of distraction in order to concentrate on developing your own idea. Even the ticking of the clock or a cluttered table can be annoying. For such situations it is necessary to create spaces, spaces without interference, with sufficient freedom of movement for "brooding" and the opportunity to capture the ideas.


As far as the suggestions on the subject of inspiration and new thoughts or ideas come. The experience from many innovation and future work projects has also shown that diverse and creativity-promoting work environments as well as targeted coaching of employees are important. However, it is critical for success that companies give their employees sufficient freedom to experiment and actively promote the search for personal inspiration, creativity and ultimately new ideas and innovations. But that also means a high level of time investment. Because if you are trapped in your hamster wheel and your personal routine all day, you will not be able to escape the tunnel vision and autopilot mode even in the best environment. (pg)