Steve Jobs once said creativity comes from spontaneous meetings and random in-person discussions. These serendipitous encounters are commonplace in an office. The problem is, the office isn't as commonplace as it once was.
Many people are still working from home, and many businesses have embraced remote working long-term.
A logical question to ask is, how can you nurture creativity when some (or all) of your employees work remotely?
But perhaps the more appropriate question to ask is, are serendipitous encounters truly the source of creativity at all?
Democratizing creativity through brainwriting
Remote work results in fewer in-person meetings. That might be a good thing for creativity.
Several issues crop up when a whole team sits together in a room. Early ideas tend to dominate, leading the discussion down whatever path was initially broached.
Brainstorming out loud often benefits whoever is loudest and most visible. That's at the expense of quieter, more thoughtful types, who prefer to sit back and remain out of the spotlight.
A remote working dynamic requires an alternative strategy in the form of brainwriting.
Brainwriting sees teams brainstorming ideas through the written word rather than spoken conversations. There is more time for concepts to percolate, with all suggestions given equal weight regardless of when they are posted or who came up with them.
Loud voices no longer dominate.
Everyone contributes, all ideas have equal weight, nobody is outshone, and the shy and introverted find their voices. This can completely change the team dynamic in a far-reaching and impactful way.
Creativity becomes democratized. More ideas are contributed and considered.
Diversity and Demand
Remote working allows for serendipitous encounters of an entirely different kind. Opening up recruitment to candidates outside your immediate geographical areas allows for greater diversity, new perspectives, and the ability to attract top talent who would otherwise have been unable to join the team.
This can significantly uplevel idea generation and fulfillment in a team. You have access to a different level of thinking than would not have been available otherwise.
You get perspectives you never considered, points of views you'd be unable to replicate on your own.
Your team becomes a melting pot of minds.
Finding inspiration in new surroundings
No matter how creative and dynamic your office environment is, it's still a single indoor location that doesn't (generally) change. Remote work allows a 'work from wherever' mentality that opens employees up to a world of inspiration.
Fresh air and beautiful views. The comfort of home. The adrenaline rush of a quick walk or a lunchtime yoga class. The bustle of a favorite coffee house. All these locations lend themselves to a less rigid and claustrophobic approach to work and a chance at serendipitous encounters of an entirely different nature.
Office inspiration is limited to four walls and whatever you've filled them with.
The scope for ideas, innovation, and inspiration in the outside world is limitless.
With greater creativity comes greater productivity
Studies show that creative leaders outperform their peers across key financial metrics. It's no surprise, then, that we increasingly see profitability and growth hinge far more on creativity than productivity (1).
Creative thought and innovation drive growth (2). The free flow of ideas is what drives companies to greater success.
Little is more liberating to the mind than letting your team physically roam freely. In other words, serendipitous encounters may inspire creativity. But they don't have a monopoly over it.
- McKinsey Digital, 2017, Creativity's bottom line: How winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/creativitys-bottom-line-how-winning-companies-turn-creativity-into-business-value-and-growth
- Stanford Business, 2019. How Innovation Drives Economic Growth. https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/how-innovation-drives-economic-growth