Creativity Thrives When People Move

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Jul 26, 2018

Feeling uninspired and need a jolt of creativity? Brace yourself.

I recently read about a development that’s fascinating … and maybe a little freaky. Researchers found a way to stimulate the area of the brain responsible for creative thought. It turns out that increasing blood flow to what’s called the frontopolar cortex is just an electric surge away. The idea is to make this procedure available to employees at work and students in school within the next 15 years.


Thankfully, you don’t need to send a shock through your cranium to get the creativity buzzing. Good old-fashioned movement will do the trick just fine.

Inertia is the tendency of objects at rest to stay at rest, but bodies and minds in motion tend to stay in motion. So to kick-start some thoughts, simply get moving. Evidence is mounting that exercise optimizes brain function for people of all ages — in both memory and imagination. New York University neuroscience professor Wendy Suzuki hypothesized in Quartz that regular exercise could help students be more imaginative in their studies and adults be more creative in their careers.

This insight is particularly valuable for companies in the United Kingdom. Microsoft recently found that British productivity may soon fall behind other countries because of a “creativity crisis.” Let’s look at a few simple ways to promote physical activity and improve creativity in offices everywhere.

Encourage employee movement — Enhance the “creativity culture” of your workplace by promoting physical movement in the office. When people are too sedentary, bad things happen: Energy levels drop, focus wavers, and stagnation occurs. That can all sap creativity.

At VARIDESK, we created an active workspace by putting basic office components — printers, trash and recycling bins, and water coolers — in centralized, nontraditional places. This encourages people to get up from their stations to carry out office tasks. And when you’re already working on your feet, you’re more likely to get up and move — walk over to a coworker’s desk instead of sending an email or instant message, or take a quick break to stretch. We also encourage walking meetings and even have a 24-hour fitness room on site.

Celebrate great conversations — Another way to promote creativity is to facilitate honest and open dialogue. When you launch a new product, make sure to share the feedback and amplify the positive reactions while also paying careful attention to negative feedback so you can modify your offerings.

Along those same lines, promote a culture of supportive openness and exploration. For example, when you host discussions for people to share their thoughts, allow them to rapidly fire out ideas. The key is to never immediately shoot down any idea; let one thought give rise to the next, with the best ideas building on each other. Evidence shows that such a supportive social environment translates to better creativity at work.

Make the space idea-friendly — It’s important to physically arrange the office space to promote social interaction. One way is knocking down cubicle walls in favor of a more open floor plan. We’ve seen where this small step can enhance creativity significantly. Also, have plenty of breakout spaces where employees can go to talk and think. These can be meeting rooms with whiteboards or picnic tables outside. No two people tap into their creativity the same way, so be open to having a flexible work environment.

By adopting these principles, you can promote a culture of movement — both of the body and mind — in your office, which will help you stay competitive and responsive to the challenges of the 21st-century marketplace. The more creative your processes and your team, the less likely you’ll need to acquire innovative ideas via electrocution.

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