THE BLOG
12/15/2014 01:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Need to Get Creative? How to Create an Idea Space

Where you work is how you think. Your immediate surroundings determine your mindset, the way you generate ideas and solve problems. You can't break institutional barriers within the walls of your everyday workspace. If radical change is what you seek, create your own idea space -- a discrete location away from workplace distractions where you can cultivate and share new knowledge. Think of it as a retreat, a refuge, an escape from the constraints of office culture.

An idea space is as much mental as it is physical. Idea spaces spark wild energy as like-minded people come together and brainstorm new initiatives. Dislocating from the typical task-oriented work mode helps us gain the freedom of mind and insight necessary to produce great ideas.

Hallmark is an organization that understands and benefits from the power of idea spaces. Next-door to its headquarters, the company has a giant innovation facility full of studios for crafts like glass-blowing, ceramics, and papermaking. These activities allow employees to take a break from the day-to-day grind and rejuvenate their spark. Hallmark also invites workers to take sabbaticals and travel. These sabbaticals give people the permission to try something they would not try at home--and they can return to inject some of their inspiration back into the company by initiating new product lines. The world is their office.

The development of an idea space can help you achieve any of these goals:
  • Provide a sanctuary from institutional thinking
  • Give employees a place to free their minds and develop creative thinking ability
  • Offer a 'test track' to experiment with new ideas
  • Develop communities of practice for sharing knowledge and experience
Give your space a metaphor or theme. This will shape how people use and think about the space. By calling an idea space "kitchen of the mind" or "corporate garage," you express the real purpose to an uninitiated participant. You can use the theme to develop the physical space as you would a theme restaurant. Idea spaces come in many forms, but often fall into one of four categories:
  • Stimulation: Spaces that stimulate people's imagination through new interaction. These include art, music, and dance studios, field trips, and sabbaticals
  • Facilitation: Spaces that bring in seasoned "travel guides" to assist small groups in their journey toward breakthrough ideas and action. These include jumpstart programs and creativity coaching.
  • Experimentation: Spaces that provide a workshop or laboratory for the development of ideas into products, services, and learning. These include virtual labs, idea banks, incubators, and accelerators.
  • Education: Spaces that develop creativity competencies in individuals and groups through teaching and partnership. These include training sessions and mentorship programs.
Don't expect fast, quantifiable results. Be patient as you build your sanctuary. Remember that the predictability of routine is what you're getting away from. In an idea space, chaos is your friend.