Ideas are kind of like plants—the environments that they're grown in can have a massive impact on the quality of their fully developed states. And just like a plant requires nutritious soil to grow up strong and healthy, the best ideas flourish in a meeting environment that genuinely fosters creativity. So how do you develop a meeting culture that consistently breeds innovation and quickly grows solid ideas as strong as the mighty bamboo of Kyoto? Let's take a look at the layout.
Pick the Proper Pot
One could argue that a blank white room is ideal for creative thought, but we’ve learned that adding a little life along your walls can often serve as the spark that fires one’s imagination. Step into our office and you’ll see imagery like cross-sections of the human brain, tools for scientific experimentation, and bolts of electricity. Stroll into one of our meeting spaces and you’ll see more of the same: visual reminders of our ambitions, our curiosity, and our culture.
Take the Red Room for example. A glimpse inside reveals the likenesses of exceptional thinkers like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Carl Sagan. And sometimes, just seeing their faces can jolt our ideation and galvanize us to strive for greatness and originality. In the Orange Room, poetry written by our own team members enlivens the walls to remind us that even the relatively mundane can be imbued with passion and meaning. In short, the physical spaces in which you meet and brainstorm can have a positive—or negative—impact on your creative process. So take a look around your meeting space and decide if it promotes the kind of creativity in thought that you desire.
Water The Seeds
In many meetings, potentially extraordinary ideas never germinate simply because they’re never shared, so it’s critical to establish an environment that urges your team to take creative leaps of faith and rewards them for doing so. Presenting new ideas in a room full of people can be daunting, but it can be far less so in an atmosphere that explicitly encourages ambition, risk, and even failure, so as long as it’s in attempt to produce the best possible end product. Meeting atmospheres as such are emboldening, and they can help provide a sense of freedom and confidence that engenders remarkable ideas and solutions.
At NogginLabs, we celebrate and seek bold, pioneering ideas with tremendous verve. So if you offer up a great idea, it’s properly recognized by the team in real time, and you’re inspired and encouraged to keep them coming. Naturally, not all ideas are hits, and if you present a relative dud, that’s OK. It happens to the best of us, and the duds often set up the best punch lines. The important thing is that you’re comfortable presenting your ideas without the fear of failure, because everyone understands that sometimes it’s those failed ideas that lead to the biggest breakthroughs.
Nurture Your Green Ear
Establishing a meeting environment in which new ideas are freely and comfortably presented is ideal, but it’s equally important to create a space that values active listening. Too often, the natural inclination in creative meetings is to speak solely for the sake of saying something—anything. But active listening is criminally underrated. I can’t count how many times I’ve listened carefully as a team member talked out an idea when suddenly that idea transmogrified into a wholly new idea in my mind that—after I presented it to the group—sparked an even better idea in another person’s mind, and we all thankfully rode that golden road of real collaboration to a beautiful solution that none of us may have arrived at on our own.
But it’s not just about actively listening to our own team members. It’s listening to our clients and to everything else that’s going on in the world around us. What happens in our meetings is often influenced by what happens outside of them. We pride ourselves on keeping our ears to the ground and catching word of any novel approach that can inspire us to create the best learning experiences possible—and then we openly share those approaches in our meetings and let them snowball. And there’s no way we could do that if we never closed our mouths and simply listened from time to time.
Need some tips on how to wrangle creative thought in one of these inspiring environments? Check out our post on running a productive creative meeting.