With a shift towards an innovation-driven economy, fostering creativity on a daily basis is a crucial asset for people in organizations to collaborate, share knowledge, and solve complex problems.
Creativity has always been at the core of doing business, but until now it has never been at the top of managers’ agenda. Of course, creativity is essential to start a new business and sustains global organizations. However, perhaps because it is by definition too hard to grasp or it doesn’t produce an immediate quantifiable payoff, it has never been the primary focus for most executives.
At least not until now, when a radical shift towards an innovation-driven economy has urged organizations of any size to nurture creativity daily. However, as every creative person will tell you, the wrong type of environment can do nothing but inhibit people’s talent.
If your team have some difficult time to focus and produce the work they’ve been hired for, don’t despair! Here’s some good news for you: Creativity could be cultivated with some good coffee and a well-curated location.
I’m going to share my story.
Hosting Likemind Helsinki
In 2012-2013, I hosted Likemind Helsinki; a monthly morning coffee meet-up started in NYC. I had been a part of the community since 2011. For as long as I can remember, I have been an admirer of Ray Oldenburg’s work, the author of The Great Good Place and Celebrating the Third Place, who first described the importance of “third places” like cafès, bookstores, and hair salons for the well-being of the individual and society at large. I trusted the validity of his theory and I decided to explore the power of the third place within my own community. When the former host resigned, I decided to apply for the position.
At the time when I became a host, our community included a wide range of international creatives. Those were mostly freelancer, but also full-time employees. The attendance rate fluctuated, though. Sometimes we were a group of ten. Other times only three people. It wasn’t clear what was the reason why people didn’t show off every month, but one reason could be because we were always meeting in the same place without an agenda. Shortly after, I decided to try out some new ideas as an attempt to organically grow and engage the community.
To start with, every month I chose a different café. To be a suitable venue it had to respond to a few criteria: the quality of the coffee, an environment with good vibes and purposefully thought through every detail, a convenient location for all participants, and apt for the current season.
We visited almost every cafè, market square, and outdoor terrace in the center of Helsinki. And we often returned where we felt the most welcomed. After introducing themed breakfasts with speakers, I tried to push the concept even further.
Changing venue every month worked well. In fact, the average monthly attendance increased. However, I wondered if we could spice up the conversation by exploring unusual viewpoints and places. Instead of meeting in a cafè, I invited my fellow Likeminders to a co-working space (somewhat a new concept in Helsinki at that time) called Volga.
Likemind Helsinki goes Volga
One morning of October over an uncomplicated and healthy packed breakfast, the community joined me in a conversation with the resident creatives. We met an international collective including a photographer, an architect, a visual artist, and some urban planners. We spent the morning learning about their work, exchanging ideas, and debating the recent urban developments in Helsinki as well as our intercultural experiences.
Being the host of Likemind had been an incredible ride. Not only did I witness the beginning of some professional collaborations but also the start of lifelong friendships. Many of whom I call dear friends today were once members of the community of Likemind Helsinki. And completely beyond my expectations, the community grew +40% in size with peaks of over 20 attendees.
Five years have gone by since I turned this experiment about “the third place” into a profession. And while I’m not the Likemind Helsinki host anymore, that experience has served as a solid ground for what WE Factory is today.
What could we learn from this experience as creative people?
Professionals seek more and more to work in environments that support their growth, both personal and professional. However, as Justin Dauer observes in his new book Cultivating a Creative Culture, “even in the most dynamic and healthy of office environments, it’s so easy to stagnate cognitively and physically at our desks.” As a result, people aren’t motivated. In the worst case, they will soon seek for a new employer, if any at all.
The solution can often be found in taking your team to a different environment, to shift energy and perspective. Invite inspiring people for a talk. Explore the idea that work doesn’t necessarily happen in front of a laptop. Likemind Helsinki goes Volga succeeded because the unusual context sparked new ways to connect and collaborate. And both freelancers and employees started off their day with the opportunity to learn something new and be inspired.
You see, creativity is not that hard to cultivate. Perhaps, you just need to find ways to build an exciting creative culture within your workplace?
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