Not long after our big Spitfire move last year, our Marketing Manager, Emily, wrote about how we were harnessing the power of being Agile to create a great working environment for our teams. Just as we had in our old Soho home, we placed importance on the idea of not being too precious about our new studio space, and neither did we try to define every inch of it too early. Instead, over the course of 2015, we wanted to embed our teams and iteratively adapt our new home to suit our needs.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t have a plan, or that creating creative, collaborative spaces isn’t always a top priority. It just means that we didn’t think the solution was astroturf or a ‘collaboration greenhouse.’ Creative space is more than just where we brainstorm: it’s about areas where product teams can work side-by-side with our clients, and communities of practice can gather and share knowledge.
The very topic of creative space came up again at our recent Breakfast of Champions event, with many attendees asking how they could create a space for their more agile teams to thrive.
So, almost a year on from our Spitfire move, I have been experimenting and thinking about some ways you can apply creative spaces to your own work environments and share here a repost of a article I wrote earlier this year from my own website. Take a look, and let us know what you think.
And the key thing to remember is that these pointers can be applied by anyone, anywhere.
When we think about agile team dynamics, especially when talking about Scrum, we tend to pigeonhole ourselves heavily in process. We spend a vast amount of time changing up retrospective techniques, checking that we are calculating our velocity, and continuously trying to improve the Definition of Done (DoD).
Don't get me wrong, by no means are these activities unimportant. However, there's one thing - for me at least - that has just as much, if not more importance than any of the above, particularly when it comes to team dynamics...
No matter what our creative field, we all need inspiration to help us along the way - and with deadlines lurking and having to constantly manage client expectations, it's certainly easy to forget about what motivates a team.
So why should we focus more on building creative spaces?
Having the right creative space for any kind of team has a great impact on ideas, dynamics, and performance - be it technical software development teams, or non-technical sales teams.
A creative workspace:
Nurtures ideas and inspiration
We all have great ideas (even if we think this isn't entirely true). A team can be made up by all kinds of characters and experiences. So use this to the team’s advantage. Get them talking and learning about what gets each other's creative juices flowing. You may find that open conversation and learning leads to a great piece of collaboration that may have never evolved if teams were siloed.
Creates conversations and builds empathy
Face-to-face discussions are still significantly undervalued. The power of pairing and collaborating with someone else can help eliminate misconceptions and assumptions, ensuring everyone is on the same page. It can also lead to real empathy. Empathy also builds trust and harmony, and with these two factors, people can learn to connect and work together.
Acts as a creative block breaker
Many times when we find ourselves unable to solve a problem, such as hitting a mental block on a complex piece of code, or writing a blog post. The environment around us can act as a catalyst for breaking down barriers and bringing about that ‘eureka!’ moment.
Building your own creative space
I can already hear you thinking ‘but we don’t have enough space’ or ‘our office consists of cubicles, how can we collaborate?' Here are a few practical tips to get you started:
• Working Walls - Include a space or area for displaying your work, actions or decisions. This keeps teams working towards collective goals, and encourages others around to give feedback, learn and knowledge share through visuals.
• Creative Corners - No spare room? Carve out a creative corner. Don’t let the lack of space stop you from building small breakouts areas and a change of scenery for the team, even if it's a shelf with a few books or a corner for playing games as a means of creative learning.
• Desk Diversity - It’s important to converse, so don’t talk about co-locating and collaborating - just do it! Grab your laptop and sit next to the person who you need to move that ticket that's been sitting in the 'work in progress' (WIP) column into 'Done'! If you happen to work on a desktop machine, move your chair, pair up and collaborate!
• Free Furniture - Whether you have a spacious office or work in a startup studio, modular furniture is always a great option to get people building spaces for quick huddles or meetings. So get everyone standing around a table, or better yet remove the table (this stops laptops clustering creative space) and use seats. Break the rules!
Creativity or 'being creative' has a significant importance in today's digital space. So, stop and ask yourself: how would you build a workspace to inspire your team's creativity?
If you’re thinking of trying out some of these ideas, make sure to check back in over the next couple of weeks as I expand on these pointers and provide visual guides and examples.
Original content by Christina Ohanian, first featured on Agile and Sketch