Codify This

The latest Leesman Index Review is out. I have a huge amount of respect for what Tim Oldman and his team do. I think they are bringing much needed rigour and discipline to the evidence behind workplace design. But the opening article in this latest issue left me aghast.

I’ve been a knowledge worker myself and worked alongside knowledge workers for nearly all of my working life. Leaving aside the fact that left brain vs right brain has been shown to be a myth, a great many creatives find themselves in knowledge work. Some of them will be lucky enough to work in roles where they are able to use their creative talents. Many will not be so lucky. Our workplaces are full of makers, artists and writers. Bursting with them. Many will have had the will to express themselves creatively crushed. By teachers, by managers, by circumstance. Millions of creative thoughts every day going unheard. Thoughts that might lead to new products, new treatments, new politics, new novels, new paintings. But, no. Stay in your box. You’re a knowledge worker now, boy.

Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need those thoughts. We need that creativity. But the design of workplaces won’t get us anywhere and not if it’s based on a photocopy of what works at Google. Not without people. And a deep understanding of the latent creativity at our disposal. Creativity does not spring forth at our command or in the places we expect it to. It does not bend to our will. It can’t be neatly codified and labelled. It defies structures and attempts to contain it. But it needs people to flourish. To see it in ourselves and others. To let it soar.

So, yes, we need creativity. Short-sighted notions of who it might come from might give us another Google. But we don’t need another Google. Creativity will bring us the next big thing. It might well come from an accountant whose boss thought that she was better suited to crunching numbers. Creativity is not the preserve of a distinguished elite. It belongs to us all.

It is in us all. Keep doodling.

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