It was stated by economist and social scientist Richard Florida that ideas are the currency of the new economy. That quote came from Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Class, over fifteen years ago in 2002. Florida argued that creative work is not exclusively about artistic pursuits but rather a focus on generating new ideas and solving complex problems. He maintained that creativity was a critical skill for people to develop and for cities and businesses to foster creativity if they wanted to thrive in the coming century. It was an idea that took time to build momentum.
In 2002 the notion of “design thinking”, using the same creative strategies designers employ to solve problems, was gaining traction. Ideas about creative work generated plenty of conversation – and Florida’s work spawned its share of debate. During this same period, business leaders weren’t losing a much sleep over the creative output of their organization. They were far more focused on efficiency, getting lean and going global. Fast forward to today and creativity, especially in the workplace, is an idea whose time has come, on multiple fronts. Cities around the world that fostered great environments for creative work have thrived, just as Florida suggested. People who lived through the cost squeeze of multiple recessions are looking for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose from their work, and stretching their creative muscles helps scratch that itch. Meanwhile, recent college graduates aren’t content to sit in a beige cubicle and do routine work just to make a paycheck, causing employers to rethink their strategies for attracting new talent.
Defining Creativity in the Workplace
In many organizations, creativity isn’t spawning spontaneously. Most employers say their organizations aren’t creative enough and most employees say they’re not living up to their creative potential on the job, according to Adobe’s State of Create 2016 study. Contrary to popular myth, creativity isn’t about a “Eureka!” moment that happens among truly brilliant people. Creative work is a process in which everyone can engage, if the conditions are right. Steelcase and Microsoft joined forces to begin thinking about the challenges organizations and people face as they try to engage in more creative work. Understanding that both space and technology have a role to play in supporting this work, it was critical to begin with insights on how creativity happens. “Creativity is an inclusive process in which something new emerges,” says Ralf Groene, general manager of Microsoft Devices. “As creativity becomes central to our work, the importance of where we do it is being reaffirmed. The cloud and mobile technologies may be untethering us from the office, but our need and desire to do creative work is luring us back in.”