Imagine yourself walking into a space, with grey painted walls, low structural ceiling, very few windows, monotonous materials of the furniture all around, would you want to stay there and give your best? The answer would be probably no. We behave situationally. We are social beings. We need an environment to think, create and bring out the best in us. therefore, is it true when stated about a physical environment or the architectural design of a place serves as a stimulant to bring out the best in the employees of an organization to establish a future in the competitive business world today. (Wilmot, et al. 2012). Our world is changing at a rapid pace, and so is our working world. We are challenged daily to embrace new innovations, products and services, technologies into our working culture and yet continue to be effective and efficient despite of constant changes. As architects, designers and organizations, it is very important today to endeavour to provide a physical environment that facilitates creativity and innovation. Just by providing a physical environment, it cannot innovative or create in itself, but various parameters of physical spaces that interact with humans on a social, cultural or emotional level, that stimulates creative and innovative thinking.
– A physical space not just thought as an area of accommodating people with a couple of desks and chairs, but that drive people to think creative and generate ideas through sketches, diagrams, references clearly and comfortably,
– Environment that understand their diverse requirements and multiplicity of creative and innovative processes,
– A space that facilitate spontaneous engagement within co-workers, clients and experts.
Creating and designing such environments is challenge for architects and designers, and more difficult for managers and other organizational leaders to understand the importance of having such environments within their million-dollar real estate property. Bridging this gap in today’s time is very essential for all. This research paper will present an overview of the world of spaces for creative and innovative thinking. It will describe the parameters that foster the interaction between human and physical space at workplaces.
2 Evolution of Workplace
For generations, work was done in a specific manner, time and place. Clerical workers were seated closely in an open space where limited knowledge was required. Peter Drucker conceived a term knowledge work in 1973, when he anticipated that before the end of twentieth century it would be nearly impossible to continue working in a specific manner, time and space. The new century would require using more brains than before to solve problems, to innovate and be creative. A single definition of knowledge work, creativity and innovation is very difficult to settle upon. But one cannot deny the change conceived by Peter Drucker. Much before the prediction, offices and white-collar work had born and the dynamics of the workplaces witnessed changes, where administration and bureaucracy had taken over the business world. This section of the paper will describe why the physical spaces at work changed so fiercely. Two factors that are largely culpable for workspaces to evolve are:
2.1 Human factor and ergonomics (HF)
The scientific discipline attentive to the understanding of interactions between human and other parameters of a system and the profession that applies theory, methods to design in order to foster human wellbeing and overall efficiency. (n.d.) http://www.iea.cc/whats/index.html. Designers involved HF basically to provide healthy and safe measures to let the employees be more efficient and effective. It involved making interfaces between human and equipment smooth and safer. This approach was very reactive, for instance, products like task chairs causing back pain would be discarded by designing a new revised product. Creative knowledge work may be obstructed by an uncomfortable chair and replacing that with something ergonomic cannot surely convert into creating an environment that foster creative and innovative thinking. But it definitely supports by making people comfortable and feel good to work type of environment which enables the creative juices to flow. Therefore, HF made its way to the forefront of workspace design.
2.2 Environmental psychology
This discipline is concerned with exploring how experiences in the interaction between the physical world; places and objects and humans influence their thoughts and behaviors. In comparison to the first discipline – human factor and ergonomics that also influence thoughts and behavior indirectly sometimes cannot be set apart, but their foundations, approaches and methods help to distinguish the two disciplines. Psychology being relatively new in the field of space design it has stepped to the forefront of workspace design a broader concept with making wellbeing at the core of workplace design.
“physical comfort refers to basic human needs such as safety, hygiene and accessibility, which must be assured- usually through applying existing building codes and standards-so that users find their environment habitable. Functional comfort.. refers to the degree to which their environment supports users’ tasks. At a more abstract level but equally important to users at work is psychological comfort, including feelings of belonging, ownership and control over the workspace” (Vischer, 2008)
The abstract level is what forces the intentional design of workspaces that allows to facilitate creative and innovative thinking that is very crucial for today’s economic development of any organization. A model of satisfaction and wellbeing (figure1) promotes how a workplace cannot be designed for a particular time, way of work or fixed and permanent ergonomic dimensions for all at work, but rather the design needs to agile and transactional in nature to be able to better support users. (Vischer, 2008). It is the same concept of wellbeing that stimulates behind the ‘Positive Design movement’, which is based on the positive psychology movement. Positive psychology, focuses on increasing human wellbeing by advancing their experiences. Positive Design that gained attention worldwide in the recent years is concerned with the psychological research that connects being in a positive mood with thinking broadly and freely. When we start to think freely and broadly we tend to get along better with people around us and helps boost our immune systems as positive thoughts flow, increasing wellbeing and fosters creative and innovative thinking. Positive Design leading theorists argue with this model (figure2) as to how can Positive Design fosters human wellbeing. Desmet, P. M. A., & Pohlmeyer, A. E. (2013)
Earlier many of the workplace designing projects stop at providing basic functional support for work, but times are changing and the trend of designing a variety of spaces where people can use different settings for different tasks. It is very crucial for any business to adapt that. It is important to know the parameters that experiment with designs and foster interaction between employees and their surroundings for enabling creative and innovative thinking.
“Nearly all problems of human behaviour stem from our failure to ensure that people live in environments that nurture their wellbeing” – Anthony Biglan
All philosophers, psychologists, social scientists and other great people refer to wellbeing as a general word to describe physical, mental, emotional and social state of a human being. ‘Wellbeing’ as stated by Prof. William Porter of MIT “is defined by by all creators as the state they are in when they create”. Environment plays a major role in human wellbeing. It is not resolved just by psychology of the human concerned to the space but also integrating their social characteristics (Mcnulty & Fincham, 2012). The spaces in which we do anything have a significant influence on our wellbeing as humans because space affects us emotionally. We are situational and social beings. (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974). In the context of physical environment, a Steelcase research team has presented six dimensions of wellbeing that can intentionally influenced through design and architecture.
3.1.1 Optimism: fostering creativity and innovation
This term refers to going beyond positive outcomes in diverse domains, anxious to try new approaches, creating an enjoyable present with seeing a positive future. Exploring ideas, being open to others, taking more risks and challenging yourself at every step. Optimism has important implications for an organizations’ agility and resiliency and this may result to more productive employees in today’s economy. Design considerations that foster would be:
– Providing selection and control to the employees for how and where they work.
– Creating room to build individual, personalized surroundings.
– Design for transparency that enables to build trust over visual interactions
3.1.2 Mindfulness: being fully engaged
It describes a mental state of human where they can be in an intense pace of life with being fully present in the moment. This is difficult to achieve in today’s times with un avoided presence of technology. Rapid changing technology and trends create stress for people in organizations. This dimension guides to us have a workplace that helps employees manage their cognitive overload of the daily lives and allow them to be fully present in the moment. Design considerations that might influence would be:
– Creating spaces or areas which allow people to interact on one-to-one level in person and not virtually within the organization.
– Providing areas without distractions and interferences.
– Control the environment with technology, colours, textures and views.
– Designing spaces that allow employees to control their sensory stimulations.
3.1.3 Authenticity: being yourself
This dimension expresses about an individual being free to be who he or she is, at work as well away from work. This can get complicated as attainment of this dimension is directly tied to social issues. Expressing yourself as what you think, how you perceive and generate ideas is very critical to the organizations, every individuals are unique with their experiences, social background and attitudes which give an infinite possibilities for the organization to flourish. Considering each employee is able to do that in the given work environment. Design suggestion that could foster this dimension:
– Creating informal, non-constricting environments.
– Designing areas that enable employees connect their personal values to the brand value.
– With use of correct material palette, colour schemes and texture integrate spaces that make people comfortable to create, express and share their craziest and weirdest ideas as well.
3.1.4 Belonging: connecting to others