Robyn Koenig

Creativity doesn’t have to be elaborate or flashy, and it doesn’t have to be reserved for the “creatives” alone. Low-key creativity is the effortless, no-pressure strategy to get your brain working in an imaginative way with others.

Creativity doesn’t start in an email
Get those creative juices flowing with face-to-face interaction! The key to a collaborative environment is getting to know your coworkers on a personal level, away from the computer screen. Try kicking off a meeting with a quick creative exercise and have everyone share their piece with the team. Not only will this bring everyone some laughs, but it will start the meeting with high energy, ready to jump into a productive meeting.

Here’s an exercise our team tried in a recent meeting:
Each participant has a piece of paper with 30 blank circles on it and a pencil. Team members are challenged to fill in as many circles as possible in only three minutes. The aim being quantity, not quality.

Culture of creativity
Give every team member every creative opportunity and constantly promote a positive work environment and culture. Providing a creative and unique work space can improve company morale, and science shows that positive moods tend to promote those “a-ha” moments. So, bring a whiteboard and handful of candy to your next meeting (this always works for us).

Encouraging creativity doesn’t stop with our Bright Lights – we challenge you to complete the 30 circles exercise with your team and tag us on Facebook or Twitter with the photos. We can’t wait to see where their imagination takes them!

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Numerous studies demonstrate the effects that various aspects of the environment, including noise, sights and smells, have on the mind and the work that we produce.

CBS Sunday Morning recently ran a segment on how design colors the mind, by exploring the “drunk tank pink” color in a visiting football team’s locker room. The school purposefully selected the color for the locker room to weaken the visiting players before a game. Similarly the color was also noted for use in prisons to calm the violent inmates.

The story featured design psychologist Toby Israel, who placed a tree in her kitchen because of the positive connotations her memories as a child held of trees. She found when she spent much of her time in her kitchen, she felt happier and related that to the tree’s influence. Israel explores the psychology of design in her book, Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Environments, http://www.designpsychology.net/about.html#book.

Adam Alter, assistant professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, discusses the effects that different colors have on moods and productivity in his book titled Drunk Tank Pink, and Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think. His research includes exploring how blue produces more creativity and red more caution and perhaps attention to detail. The book is an interesting read and offers additional insights about colors and factors that influence us (http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781101605783,00.html)

As we all know and can likely see in our own offices, everyone has a different working style. What makes one person productive may drive the next up a wall!

One prime example of this is found in the story behind Coffitivity (coffitivity.com). A small group of people recognized their ability to think more creatively in a setting with a moderate volume of noise, such as a coffee shop. Their research proved that too much noise distracted most people and too little noise, while good for detail-oriented tasks, inhibited creativity.

They searched high and low for the right coffee shop and once they found it they recorded the noise of the every day hustle and bustle and posted it on a website they created for desk workers everywhere. The site has grown in popularity to points around the world, from Japan to Great Britain. Coffitivity offers a soundtrack of coffee shop noises at just the right level to help people to think outside of the box.

Many of us at ABI have different working styles—from sitting in rooms with the lights completely off to playing music over the speaker system or in our own headphones. Some of our walls are colored purple and we have a “chill area” with couches and a basketball hoop for those times when we just need to throw around some ideas with each other.

However unusual or interesting your work setting is, it’s important that it works for you. As new studies show, there are more and more tools to help perfect your work setting to spurn on productivity. Find out what’s right for you and share it – it may work for someone else too!

Ask yourself:

  • Do you work best with music or without?
  • How much lighting do you need to think clearly? Or how little do you need to think differently?
  • What colors do you like to look at while youwork?
  • Do you have images hanging around you that stimulate you in different ways?
  • Do the people around you distract you, or do their anecdotes provide much-needed breaks and stimulate creativity?
  • Are you more productive when people are chatting around you, or do you need total silence to concentrate?

Check out these sources:

http://coffitivity.com/

Drunk Tank Pink, and Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think: http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781101605783,00.html

Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Environments, http://www.designpsychology.net/about.html#book

A. Bright Idea, Archer St. office

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I’ve been reminded about the power of creativity this week. Creativity is not just about the ability to write or draw with style but it is about innovation too. I just returned from an economic development conference where I kept hearing that innovation and entrepreneurship are the backbone of our economy. OK, as a small business owner and a creative type, they grabbed my attention.

I started A. Bright Idea in 1996. I did it to allow more flexibility in my schedule and to create more of a work life balance. What I did not realize at the time was that my entrepreneurship journey was just beginning. Since starting this journey, my company employed more than 20 people, purchased real estate, developed real estate, paid into a new tax base created by our development and growth, not to mention purchasing equipment, services and materials from a variety of vendors both locally and globally. Our continued success meant growth, increased revenue and spending. I learned at this economic development conference that this is often called an ecosystem. Get it—eco like economy and ecosystem like the traditional definition of an environment or area.

With such bleak economic news, it would be easy to think that our business ecosystems are struggling. True in many cases. However, A. Bright Idea was delighted to celebrate with 99 other small business owners at the Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise Awards on October 21. More than 5,000 nominations came from the Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Delaware and Pennsylvania area. The University of Maryland, University College auditorium was filled with friends and family celebrating our success. Sharon Pinder, former Special Secretary of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, remarked at the event that small business was where America would see job creation and where economic recovery would begin.

She’s right, and for me, and entrepreneurs all over this county, it started with an idea. Tending and nurturing that idea spurs growth that can truly make a difference for all of us. Now, that is an ecosystem–and now it is more apparent to me than ever that small business growth will lead to our economic recovery in this county. Let’s share our new ideas with each other and watch things grow.