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Critique, hoarding, walking, office environment & routines


For some, the subject of critique can be an uncomfortable one, but we must all face it in order to progress. The Power of Critique by Fred Leichter from Stanford’s d.school, discusses just how important critique is, and the necessity of making it a regular occurrence, with no holds barred.

The advice given is to accept all feedback, regardless of expertise – “show your work to people even when you are relatively sure that they don’t know anything about the topic around which you are working.” And accept feedback no matter how it is given – even framing it as a gift, thanking them for it before they begin.

On the surface this might seem like common sense, but in reality how many people give honest and constructive advice, regardless of the risk of hurt pride and office politics?

Next, we enjoyed reading Ron Ashkenas’ article on how Even Good Employees Hoard Great Ideas. One of the reasons for this? Focusing too much on ‘cash for ideas’ may open “a Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences — people innovating for their own benefit instead of the company’s, competition arising between individuals or units, employees losing focus on current business, and so on.”

Ashkenas explores the research that shows group and long term incentives are more effective than financial incentives for breakthrough innovation. He also discusses the growing trend for individuals to hoard their ideas because of a fear of someone stealing them and taking credit. The solution? To focus on inspiring innovation as a team for the company, rather than the individual, largely through building commitment and trust. He suggests explaining to employees that innovation is a part of their job role, not an added extra, and also communicating examples of successful innovation to inspire employees. “Turning a traditional company into an innovation machine won’t happen overnight. But if you focus on culture rather than just cash, you’ll probably have a better chance of success.”

recent study by Stanford researchers has looked into why so many people find walking boosts creativity. Throughout history, writers and inventors alike have attributed their success to walking (for example Darwin and his ‘thinking path’), and results of this study have shown that it is not the inspiring environment that improves creativity, but the activity. Tests were carried out both indoors on a treadmill and outdoors on foot and in a wheelchair. The study also showed that while walking improves creativity, it does not improve focused thinking.

Walking to the office is one way to inspire innovation and creativity, but what about when you get there? This interview with Monica Parker, workplace director at Morgan Lovell takes a look into the way that the office environment affects its inhabitants. Our favourite quote: “If you have big brains working in your building, you want them bumping into each other – not just sitting at a lump of wood.” The article offers 8 tips, including focusing on “design [that] reflects the culture of the business,” and looking at the deeper influence of the environment on people.

Earlier in the year there was a lot of interest in the routines of some of history’s great creatives, forming the idea that by mimicking these routines genius could be achieved. The Myth of the Artist’s Creative Routine debunks this idea, injecting a well-needed dose of common sense. The article discusses the flaws in these lists of routines; that all routines are different and therefore there is no one peculiar habit that will inspire genius:

“Copying Joan Didion’s routine won’t make you write like Joan Didion. Writing on index cards won’t turn you into Vladimir Nabokov. We are all more than the pattern of our days and the materials of our work.”

Some more things we enjoyed reading recently:
How to look past the bad wrapping of criticism
Hiring visionary thinkers – How, why and where
Breaking the rules of creative work
The implicit association test (IAT) and implicit bias
National Walking Month and the purposeless walk

Photo from Morgan Lovell

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