Want a creative workplace? Make life difficult and chaotic for yourself

The best time to launch a magazine about people, technology, work and the creative workplace was not March 2020. We did it anywayWe launched IN Magazine officially on the 4th of March 2020. So, this month marks some sort of anniversary. You could argue that this was the worst day in the history of mankind to launch a new magazine about people, work and workplaces and you’d probably be right. People were already not shaking hands. They had begun deserting public transport and planning for less contact with each other. Lockdown was only a couple of weeks away.

Scrub that. You are right. But we’ve made it work anyway. It may even have helped. Adversity often does.

A few years ago Marie Forgeard, a Psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania decided to put this notion to the test. She asked around 400 people to gauge the impact of a difficult or traumatic episode in their lives on their creativity and personal growth.

What the research showed was that the number and type of difficulties encountered by individuals preceded creative growth following a period of introspection and taking stock. One of the conclusions that Forgeard came to was that life’s challenges make for more interesting and creative art.

This is not to suggest, of course, that adversity is a prerequisite for creativity. Just that the wells of creativity run deep. It’s a point made well by Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang here.

Chaos can be another source of creativity, a fact also known to many creative people. In his 1883 novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, writes, “I tell you: one must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.”

Firms claim to value creativity over almost anything, but you don’t often see them nurturing chaos and adversity in service to it. Instead, we see them seeking to impose order, a sort of reverse entropy. Over the past four years, many have sought to determine some mythical sweet spot of rigid times and places of work in the name of hybrid working.

While not exactly a neologism, nobody much talked about hybrid working before the Spring of 2020. It was a reaction to the opportunity we had been given to rethink work. In some contexts, it appears to be synonymous with flexible working but in most seems to mean three days in the office, two at home, or some other fixed configuration of time and place.

Turns out the latter definition is not always applicable and can cause more problems than it solves. Indeed, some people have complained that this definition of hybrid working offers them less flexibility than they used to have. And such rigidity may not be compatible with the creation of a creative workplace. While this resolves itself, flexible working sits in the corner, ignored, seething and smiling to itself.

Image: Antonio Zanchi – Sisyphus, c1660-1665



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