The Top 5 reasons for creativity in the workplace


By Robert Gerlach, Creativity Researcher & Coach, IQudo sport of ideas

Why am I creative in one company and not in another?

Throughout my creative career in creative agencies in New York, Paris, and Hamburg, my creativity felt like a rollercoaster ride. In some places, I was flying high, producing great work and loving what I do, while in others, my creative output hit rock bottom, and I couldn’t wait for the weekend to come. So I asked myself, “Why am I creative in one company and not in another?!” Finally, after a 20-year quest, we have found some groundbreaking answers.

Is it even possible to find great ideas on the job?

To determine where, when, and how creativity thrives, we interviewed over 150 engineers from the Mercedes-Benz Center in Sindelfingen (Germany). The surprising finding of this IQudo Ideation Study1 is that one out of three engineers has their best ideas in the workplace. So, yes, it is possible to find your best ideas on the job. The big question is:

Why do some engineers do get their best ideas on the job and some not?

Creative spaces don’t necessarily lead to creative work

A commonly-held belief is that people need the right physical surroundings to fuel their creative fires. Following the example of Google, plush interiors should help people be resourceful. Tina Seelig from Stanford University writes, “Creative spaces lead to creative work.2 Is that true?

Surprisingly, the parameter “habitat” isn‘t amongst the top 5 reasons for being creative on the job. No, it comes in last! It seems like a creative space isn’t essential for people being resourceful on the job.

Time is overrated when it comes to creative thinking

Besides space, there is another core parameter that comes to mind when thinking about ideal conditions for creative thinking:  T-I-M-E. In today’s time-obsessed culture, people tend to grasp at time pressure as an excuse for a lack of creativity. In a version of “the grass is always greener on the other side,” we tell ourselves that if only we had unlimited time, we would come up with marvels.

But, low and behold, the IQudo Ideation Study found that for those engineers who do get their best ideas on the job, time plays a minor role. The parameter “Time to ponder” came in seventh place only. This suggests that time, as a factor in itself, may be overrated.

Some experts have even concluded that instead of impeding it, time pressure actually boosts creativity. For instance, Alexander Schill, Chief Creative Officer of Serviceplan, Europe’s largest owner-managed agency group, believes that time pressure is beneficial to creativity because it helps people to focus on the things that matter. 

What other factors are more critical for creativity in the workplace to thrive?

Top 5 reasons to be creative on the job

When asked, “Why do you have your best ideas on the job?” the engineers cited the following top 5 reasons:

  1. Passion
  2. Inspiring Co-Workers
  3. Demand for Creativity
  4. Permissiveness
  5. Opportunities for Creative Development

Why people are creative in the workplace

Today, leaders often focus on creating the best workplace on earth. But, they would be better off to focus more on how professionals find their passion and how they best inspire each other. Innovative companies have very often started in a garage. Not because the garage was the best workplace, but because a small team was passionate about their project and they inspired each other. Creativity was required to survive and grow. There was plenty of opportunity for development. Everyone did what they could do best. Finally, the atmosphere was permissive – no strict rules and no co-workers rolling their eyes. Time, on the other hand, was almost never on their side.

*1: IQudo Ideation Study III. Kind, T., 2016. Titel: Interpersonelle Chemie und deren Einfluss auf die organisationale Kreativität. Institut für Entrepreneurship, Technologie-Management und Innovation (EnTechnon), Karlsruhe. 

*2: InGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity. Seelig, Tina (HarperCollins, New York, 2012), 101. 

*3: Time Pressure and Creativity in Organizations: A Longitudinal Field Study, Amabile, et al., 2002: “Quite simply, extremely high time pressure may engender cognitive strategies that allow no time to think creatively.”

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Want to know more about how to foster a Creative Culture? Have a look at our:
Creative Leadership Training Program

Want to know more about this IQudo Ideation Study and our new innovation method: Dual Thinking, click here

IQudo Sport of Ideas trains professionals to think outside of the box to stay ahead of the game.



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