What Good Design Can Teach Us About Motivation

Tim Brown: Taking risks is a hard thing to do in business and in life in general, and if the sense is that we’re discouraging people from taking risks then they simply won’t do it.  And so having a more playful environment is one way of sending a message to say, you know, it’s okay to take risks.  Just think about kindergartens.  They are playful places because kids need to take risks all the time in order to learn.

When we look around the world and see companies that are creative that use creative problem solving every day - companies like Google and Pixar, for instance - one thing we see is that their spaces, their workplaces are somehow different from the ones that we find in many companies.  In Google you’ll find flamingos in the courtyard.  You’ll find restaurants everywhere.  At Pixar you’ll find these strange places that are designed to look like the movies that they are designing, and it is tempting to think that in order to be creative a workplace has to be kind of design-y and weird and creative.  That isn’t necessarily the case, but what is the case is a workplace that encourages creativity is a workplace that encourages people to feel comfortable about taking risks.  

And so think about your own workplace and think about, what are the simple things that we could do to make it more comfortable for people to take risks?  Maybe it’s by opening the space out so that people can see what other people are doing and they share ideas more easily.  Maybe it is painting the walls a weird color so that they are not so dreary and corporate as they once were.  Maybe it is designing spaces to encourage certain kinds of activity like brainstorming or building new ideas. 

Having this kind of playful environment, it changes the way people feel about the work they do, in my opinion.  It allows people to kind of participate more completely.  It often allows teams to collaborate more comfortably.  That is a large part of how you get more kind of creative productivity out of people is having people feel good about working in teams because, in general, when we’re working on more complex problems teams are more effective.  And it’s about kind of a commitment.  It’s about coming into work every day and not feeling like it’s work.  It’s about coming in and feeling energized and not part of some kind of dreary bureaucracy.  

Directed /  Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

The CEO of IDEO, a global design consultancy, explains how to use design to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and engagement at work.

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