WITH more and more people working from home, out of their cars, in coffee shops and elsewhere, the term "workplace" takes on a whole new meaning.
Add to that a bit of innovative thinking, a flair for the dramatic, a burning desire to be different, and you have some clever and cool workspace concepts for creative people.
Physical space matters. It's easier to be productive, creative and happy at work in a colourful, organic, playful environment than in a grey, linear, boring one. The goal of a workplace is to provide a place and space to allow a person to get work done. The best workplace is comfortable, functional and inspirational.
What this means can vary from person to person, but one comon factor is that people want to work in a place where they can focus, create and produce. Maybe the best way to judge whether or not a work environment is effective and efficient is to see what comes out of it.
That's why the Pixar corporate offices (which created the animated movies Finding Nemo, Cars, Toy Story and The Incredibles) are awesome. They inspire creativity. Instead of cubicles, the animators work in customised cottages set on what looks like a long street, complete with addresses and a neighbourhood feel.
The common areas at Pixar also foster creativity through interaction and relaxation. There is a room filled with games for inspiration and a tropical lounge for kicking back. The great enemy of creativity is fear. When we are fearful, we freeze. Creativity has a lot to do with a willingness to take risks.
Think about how children play. They run around the playground without thinking about where they're going. They trip, they fall down, and then they get back up again and run some more. They have a wonderful belief that everything will be all right.
Popular writer Stephen King was asked how he could write such extremely ugly, strange, unreasonable, offensive, original stuff and he replied: "I have the heart of a small boy . . . and I keep it in a jar on my desk." King wrote in On Writing that he switched from a grand desk in the middle of his office to a smaller one in the corner to better focus. Considering how many books he has written, it seems to be working well.
At Googleplex, they don't really care what your desk looks like - gadgets and gizmos, loose papers and piles are a part of the casual work environment. Desks can be made from a surfboard, the bed of a truck, an old door, and the wing of a plane. It doesn't matter what your desk is created from, as long as it works for you.
In the past, HP engineers were encouraged to leave prototypes and projects-in-progress on their desk with a pad of paper on top. This way other engineers could see what was being worked on and write down their ideas or insights. Years ago, a study discovered that CEOs who liked to leave everything out actually were more successful than their counterparts who preferred to put everything away at the end of the day.
At a video production company in San Diego, the creative department only had one filing cabinet (and it was painted purple with yellow flowers). Instead, the walls were lined with cork to pin things. There were tons of table tops to pile papers on and cubby holes for a lot of the loose stuff.
The physical workspace is one of the most ignored. None of the ideas mentioned here will apply to every company, but most companies have room for improvement. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money but it does take a little creativity and courage.
Does it seem strange to turn a meeting room table into a ping pong table? Would it be weird to have to ride a slide to get into a room? Would meetings on the roof and in the fresh air be asking too much? All these things are a reality at Red Bull's corporate offices.
Your office should be a reflection of who you are and who you want to be. It can be both comfortable and professional. It can be weird and still work.
Finding a way to maximise creative potential is one of the most pressing problems in corporations. Knowing what makes one team more creative than another is an important first step.