Creative Collisions Out of the Office
Idea in brief: might accidental collisions that fuel innovation thrive outside of the traditional work environment?
There's a ton of emphasis lately on the power of creative collisions. As a refresher, creative collisions occur when two or more people spark an idea during an unplanned encounter. The traditional office coffee machine is a classic catalyst for coworkers to riff on problems, initiatives and solutions. Many great ideas are born from seemingly random encounters between colleagues who help each other.
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, is big on communication and collaboration fostering innovation. So much so, that she's changed her work from home policy to encourage more encounters in the office. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, also espouses accidental, creative encounters, and is working on transforming Las Vegas to stimulate chance meetings that produce meaningful results.
From our take, what's been missing from the dialogue recently is how powerful creative collisions with non-coworkers are. There seems to be an underlying thesis among many that innovation mostly happens within organizational walls. We challenge the idea.
For example, accelerators and incubators stimulate environments where many people are working in parallel on different initiatives, yet also have opportunities to help one another. Coffees, beers and lunches with aligned friends, who care and have the capacity to listen, can also stimulate innovative thinking. Time in nature, with art, and/or with family can also spark new approaches to problems. Exercise does wonders to flush cortisol and tune the brain-body for creativity.
Fundamentally we'd argue that as long as one is out in the world with other amazing people, location is less important than mindset, energy and environment.
Of course, if teleworking means sitting at home in a locked, small, sterile office for 8-10 hours, creativity will dwindle. But if our new, multithreaded world of work means that we're out in multiple locations with multiple people, creating porous borders in our lives for innovation to spark, we'd offer that creativity has the chance to flourish even more.
True, coworkers may speak a common language that enables more rapid progress on creative endeavors. And incentives may align deep, time-consuming sessions. However, if our goal is quality and quantity of innovative approaches, embracing the broader world is full of promise.
Take, for instance, companies like GLG, where employees are encouraged to work with startups and constantly meet industry thought leaders. Work is heavily externalized and the best new ideas can come from anywhere.
Or look at the Linux Foundation, where all employees work from home offices. The non-profit is incredibly innovative, turning up a dizzying set of training, event, and collaborative projects with a small, dedicated team. Further, people love the empowerment and flexibility that the firm provides.
So, what do you think? Do accidental, creative collisions have the best chance to occur in the office -- or might they also occur in the broader world around us?
Let us know too if you've found insightful perspectives on the subject. We'd love to learn more!
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Steve Semelsberger is the Founder of Alder Growth Partners.