Smart moves: Creating the ideal work-force

Allow your staff to offer their own ideas - and the results will show that creativity and productivity go hand-in-hand, writes Jackie Townsend

CREATIVITY is a word which means different things to different people. It can be used for solving problems, finding new ways of doing things and having new ideas.

Professor Derek Clements-Croome at the University of Reading is putting together a book, Creating the Productive Workplace, which follows a conference held in October last year. It covers several approaches to wellbeing and comfort in the workplace, such as buildings designed to be user-friendly and creating an indoor environment which is conducive to creative and productive work. In his summary, at the beginning of the book, Professor Clements-Croome says that productivity is related to the morale of the people working within any organization. I would say that the same applies to creativity.

As a species we are naturally creative; we have created our lives, our families, our society and our culture, and because we are creative, and curious, nothing ever stays the same for very long. We are leaving behind the industrial era and seem to be entering a new era, governed by information and communication. In order to be able to cope with the present upheaval and to find ourselves pointing in the right direction, we need all the creativity we can muster.

But creativity needs a space in which to happen; it's not something you can force. You have to make a space and then allow for whatever fills it, which might not be what you had anticipated or even wanted. The urge and the ability to be creative is in everyone, and it's unique.

I spend a lot of my time looking at ways in which people in the workplace can be more creative and more productive. I have found that people tend to be creative and innovative when they are given the opportunity to have an input of their own.

The person who knows a particular job best is the person who does it.Even if there are lots of people doing the same job, each person will have their own ideas about doing it.

It's a good idea to start at the grass roots level of a company because that's where things often go wrong - not because the staff at that level are incompetent - but because they are more likely to be bored, tired, underpaid, undervalued and, for some of these reasons, uninvolved.

One company I worked with was housed in a building probably built in the 1960s, rather grey outside and quite dark inside.

It was a service company, on four floors, with quite a lot of pink and red, which had the effect of making you feel rather sleepy.

The doors to the offices were the same on all floors, which got confusing because there were no numbers or titles to tell you which office you were about to enter.

We made a suggestion to make the doors to different offices, different colours.It would give the occupants of those areas a feeling of identity and would save energy being wasted in confusion.

Then that colour could be continued inside the door, by the carpet or a design on the walls. Most people like to have a feeling of belonging, in fact most of us need it, and in the workplace it's helpful for communication.

Another suggestion was to increase the amount of daylight. People were working under artificial light all day because in many areas large filing cabinets had been placed in front of the windows. Artificial light is tiring and to be able to look out of the window is refreshing. If you're working on a PC all day or on the telephone for several hours at a stretch, you need to be able to look out of the window.

Another company had a cafeteria in the basement - again with no natural light - and the tables and chairs were bolted to the floor. The plants were artificial and the flowers on the tables were plastic. The coffee was out of vending machines and the food was uninspiring with little nutritional value.

It was used because it was heavily subsidised, and the only alternative was a sandwich from the shop across the road which would cost more than a two-course meal in the cafeteria.

Companies would do well to invest some thought as well as money into their eating and drinking areas. We are becoming a cafe society - a walk through a shopping area in any city would give lots of ideas for in-house cafes that would be fun to visit, that would provide refreshment of the spirit as well as the body and a venue for impromptu meetings, and would help communication, the most under-valued quality in the workplace.

When people feel good in their surroundings, and when they are eating and drinking, they are more friendly, more generous and more expansive. They relate better. We all try to achieve this in our homes - why not do the same in the office?

Another example was where a company had moved into a building and taken over one floor and wanted to decorate. Management had plans but we felt that a better idea would be to ask the staff what they wanted. People immediately formed groups according to where they were located and what they were doing in that area. They were asked about what colours they wanted, what facilities, what kind of lighting.

Did they want curtains or blinds and who wanted to be next to the window? It was 15 floors up so would anyone prefer not to be next to the window? Everyone thought about what they wanted and talked about what they wanted. They had meetings and got to know new things about each other.

Relationships were formed and teams were formed, which was valuable for the people concerned and for the company.

The intention of these suggestions was to motivate the people concerned and get them involved in what was happening around them every day at work.

Just like any human being or animal, the most essential ingredient of any organization is the degree of life force which it is able to generate and sustain. The level of life force will determine the level of activity of the organization.

Life force equates to awareness, vitality or energy. In an organization or company, as in any living organism, life force or vitality is something which comes from the inside and responds to the outside environment. This is why it is so vital to invite staff, at all levels, to participate - be a part of - and contribute to the company, to the extent that they wish to do this.

The examples I have given are simple enough suggestions but their effect can be transformational.

It is often said that a company's employees are their greatest resource, and that's true: but any organization actually comprises the people who spend their time there, therefore investing time, thought, care and understanding as well as money and training, in your staff, is a good idea.

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

John Moore starred in Coca Cola and Morrisons adverts

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
people

Former boxer recalls incident when he was seven years old

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
A Rutherford Raiders shirt with the PornHub sponsorship
football

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Finance Assistant - Part time - 9 month FTC

£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...

Marketing Manager

£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...

Market Risk Manager - Investment Banking - Mandarin Speaker

£45,000 - £65,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is a well-known APAC Corporate and...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes