Commercial Real Estate Advisors

Context for Creativity and Innovation

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 in CREW Austin |

On Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in a packed room at the Austin Woman’s Club in downtown Austin, CREW members and future members gathered to understand the context for creativity and innovation as presented by Margaret Gilchrist Serrato, PhD MBA AIA ASID LEED AP, Workplace Strategist with Herman Miller.

Serrato described how we are all born with a high potential for creativity.  But as we age, brain synapses are lost.  Memory, pattern recognition, cognition, and creativity levels decrease, due in part to low level chronic stress.  Over time, the effect can be the same as if you are in a traumatic event.  So, how do you stop the loss and reverse the effect?

Activities to Enhance Creative Ability:  Six ways to grow new brain cells!

1)      Exercise your brain with puzzles and games.  Playing a musical instrument makes more neural connections than just listening to music.  Dance, or learn to speak a new language.  Great ways to create new synapses.

2)      Connect and have new experiences. Visit new places, attend different events.  Change the ‘usual’ in your everyday routine.  Try reading a different magazine.

3)      Practice your craft, your profession until you become an expert. Takes 10,000 hours to perfect – look at The Beatles, and Bill Gates for inspiration.

4)      Rest, relax and reduce stress.  Relax in nature – surround yourself with views, water, fire, stone and wood (see ‘environmental features’ following) – create “fuzzy thinking” mode so that your brain can make new neural connections. Try using the opposite writing hand and switch back and forth.

5)      Be happy and have fun!  Laughing with friends increases activity in the part of the brain associated with creativity.  Avoid road-rage…just let it go!  Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff.

6)      Organize your home and work space. Creating order reduces stress and exercises the brain. Don’t be a chaos hoarder – even the act of organizing works the same way for your brain.

Serrato reviewed several creativity myths:

  • “Creativity is only for creative types.”   Nope; we can all have creative ideas.
  • “Money is related to how creative you are.”   Sorry, money is not a creative motivator.
  • “Time pressure fuels creativity.”  Deadlines don’t force the ideas to come.
  • “Fear forces breakthroughs.”   No, having more time and no fear of losing your job shows that output increases.
  • “Creative people have creative ideas.”   No, but creative people can have a LOT of ideas — like Thomas Edison. He had 1200 personal patents, but we only know 4 or 5.

We live in an economy that is based on innovation and creativity.  Per Serrato, research in environmental psychology has identified several environmental features that affect our mood and ability to rest and relax.  Our “preferred environments” and our universal preference for them come from our shared genetic heritage evolved from our African plains predecessors:

Prospect:             Looking out at long views, plenty of natural light.

Refuge:                A sense of shelter and safety from enclosed areas.

Change:               We prefer naturally changing environments to static ones.

Water:                  We love being near water, even if it’s symbolic; water is essential for life.

Hearth:                The center of the community provides warmth, light and food.

Nature:                Patterns, colors and textures of natural materials comforts us.

Order:                   Our outer world reflects and shapes the patterns of our inner mind.

Collaboration:  Critical for innovation, influenced by layout, distance and visibility.

Creativity is important because in our free enterprise, capital-based economy, creativity drives success.  Companies with research, creativity and innovation at their core include Cisco, Microsoft, Apple and Google.  “The ability to apply creativity to solve problems is an important measure of job and personal satisfaction,” advised Serrato.