Greenhouse vs. Prison

A friend of mine’s passion is growing orchids. We’re talking perfect, exotic, contest-winning orchids. To get the best results, she does her work in a greenhouse. An environment that is perfectly situated to maximize growth. It fosters the ideal conditions for the natural act of creation.

It’s pretty obvious that orchids grow better in a lush greenhouse than they would in a dark, cold prison cell. Simply put, climate and environment impact growth and beauty. Why is it, then, that most companies have facilities that qualify as sensory deprivation chambers instead of fertile ground for fresh ideas and imagination?

We know that creativity and innovation have become the currency for success in the post-recession business landscape, yet we house our teams in windowless rooms with beige cubes and bad florescent lighting. And then we wonder why the work-product is bland and uninspired.

It’s no coincidence that the fastest growing, most successful companies create “greenhouses” of creativity. They build physical environments that drive imagination instead of restricting it. Check out these examples of how Google, Groupon, and IDEO have built swanky workspaces that inspire not only the mind, but the soul.

For centuries, artists, musicians, and authors have sought out inspiring locations to do their best work. The latest trend is to do the same for organizations in the Age of Creativity. The recent book, I Wish I Worked There, shows some great examples and further demonstrates the impact that environment makes on innovation.

What type of environment have you created in your organization? Do you reinforce the past with torn wallpaper, steel desks, and high cubes? Or do you foster creativity and imagination with inspiring and playful spaces?

In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, fostering creativity and original thought is job #1 for leaders. If your budget won’t allow for an extreme office makeover, start small by adding some color and fun. Making even the simplest changes to your workspace will pay off much more than another lame company picnic.

Take a hard look around and make sure that you’re building a greenhouse instead of a prison cell. Make sure you’re injecting your team with passion and energy instead of dull, boring, and bland. If you build your own creative greenhouse, you will be rewarded with fresh thinking, original thought, and innovation. You can be sure that each step you take toward a fertile environment will yield jack-and-the-beanstalk-like results.