Can a person’s physical environment affect innovation?
Alex F. Osborn, a pioneer in the field of deliberate creativity, believed the answer was a resounding “Yes.”
“Urban life tends to sap imaginative strength in all except the few who work in the arts and in creative phases of business and science,” he wrote in ‘Applied Imagination: Principles and procedures of Creative Problem-Solving,” first published in 1953.
To counter the negative effects of this “urbanization,” Osborn challenged people to take deliberate steps “to conserve and develop the imaginative talents with which we are born.”
One natural step: Redesign and deinstitutionalize the work environment so that it fosters creative thinking.
“I have long recognized that the external environment influences what goes on inside the head,” said Gerald “Solutionman” Haman, a creativity expert based in Chicago. Thousands of business people who’ve visited Haman’s ‘Thinkubator” – a creative meeting space reminiscent of a colorful kindergarten playroom stocked with adult-size gadgets, toys, tools, fun furniture and supplies – say they’ve saved 40% to 60% of their time generating ideas in the creative environment vs. the cold office space in which they spend their days.
Why do people find the Thinkubator’s environment so stimulating? In part because the meeting space excites all five senses. Among other things, it features:
▪ Ergonomically designed chairs – that simulates floating, simultaneously soothing and stimulating the mind.
▪ Hundreds of toys and creativity tools – from modeling clay to crayons to wall-size, printer-ready whiteboards.
▪ The relaxing scent of lavender, peppermint and other aromas.
▪ A variety of sounds, including music that brainstormers can make themselves using the Thinkubator’s grand piano or karaoke machines.
“By fostering a diversity of stimulation, you get more diversity of thought and a wider variety of creative ideas,” Haman said.
By Linda Stockman-Vines