04-Feb-2024 by Allison McMillan

Read Time: Approx. 5 minutes

Finding Your Creative Spaces: Unleashing Innovation and Strategic Leadership

We spend many hours every day at our desks, and people have very impressive desk setups. We've all seen them - multiple monitors, an extensive ergonomic setup, stream decks, lights, microphones, and more. While all of this creates a productive work environment that is beneficial for you and your health, sometimes, it just doesn't work. This post is all about finding your creative spaces.

One of the hardest parts about working remotely is not getting much of a change of scenery AND this is also one of the best parts about working remotely. As a leader, it's vital to find the spaces and places that help you get "unstuck" and tap into a different part of your brain or even motivate you to do something differently. Sitting and typing at a desk can only get you so far when composing blog posts, thinking deeply about company growth, or tackling some complex strategic planning. This can be done through both new and innovative spaces that you might explore as well as through embracing the broader concept of environments that foster creativity, strategic thinking, and effective problem-solving. So, what are these creative spaces? or ways of thinking that help lead to these breakthroughs?

Thinking beyond the desk

Your desk is likely the easiest place to work. It's (hopefully) set up in a quiet place and organized to your liking, but I'm not sure about you, but sometimes I feel like my desk traps me. It traps me into a certain way of thinking, it distracts me with other tasks that might feel more urgent and important, and it almost robs me of my ability to think more strategically or let something else flow. WHen I think about my work spaces and the options available to me, I try to focus in on the task i'll be doing and what I feel like will provide me with the most inspiration for that task. Sometimes that task truly needs creative thinking, like planning for an offsite, and sometimes, I just need a change of scenery to be able to focus in a different way, like when i'm writing performance reviews. Here are some of my favorites:

  • A comfy seat or couch. for me, this is best for reading books or articles in a spot where i'm far enough away from my keyboard and computer that I can't just easily jump into or be distracted by something else.
  • A coffee shop. This is best for me when I need some ambient noise that I'm actively tuning out in order to get other work done and fuels my thoughts in a particular area.
  • Coworking. This can be at a coffee shop or at a coworking space. This is useful when I want or need to feed off of the energy around me for work i'm trying to accomplish and/or when i'm working on something where i'll want to take some regular breaks that feel more social.
  • My floor or a different wall of my office. This is best when i'm trying to post-it note brainstorm or do some big picture thinking on larger pieces of paper (more on that in the next section).
  • A different, unique location based on where you live. I'm lucky enough to live in Washington, DC. This means that I have all the Smithsonian museums at my disposal. While they are awful places to take meetings from, they are fantastic for inspiration. Some of my favorite places to work from have been the Renwick (while this museum is small and doesn't have many spaces for working, with a notebook and pen, it can be a great space for brainstorming, depending on what exhibits they currently have), the Museum of Natural History, and the National Portrait Gallery's courtyard.

Changing how you work

In addition to the change of scenery, finding your creative space might include changing how you work. There are a variety of interesting ways to use your imagination to outline or jot down thoughts when tackling a larger project. One example is just some old-fashioned whiteboarding. I love getting in front of a whiteboard or big blank sheet of paper to just see where I go, write down whatever pops into my mind, and then use that to organize my thoughts later. Sometimes it ends up in an outline, sometimes just a lot of different ideas, and other times key concepts, approaches, or themes I want to dig into further. I always keep a post-it table top easel pad in my office for this reason!! A similar idea is to do this same thing with post-it notes. Use post=its as a way to get out all your thoughts and then move them around, group them together, and see where you end up. This is a great technique for group conversations but it can also be really effective for solo endeavors as well. Finally, you can try a mind map which is similar to a brainstorm but where each idea is connected to something that's already written down and branches get identified along the way. All of these methods are ways to think differently or get your brain going as you're tackling different kinds of work. They're about seeing problems and solutions through a different lens, one that is less linear and more holistic.

As you find your creative space, both physically and mentally, don't forget to follow tried and true advice. Habits like taking regular breaks, going on walks, and interacting with nature can significantly increase productivity and creativity. So the next time you're stuck, try a new way of thinking, a new place of working, or just going for a walk to see what clarity you can stumble upon.

In the end, the creative journey is as diverse as the leaders embarking on it. Whether through a change in scenery, a novel approach to problem-solving, or the simple yet powerful act of taking a break, these elements are crucial in nurturing creativity, strategic thought, and visionary leadership. As leaders, we must continually seek and embrace these spaces and methods that best ignite our creative and strategic potential, for in these spaces lies the key to unlocking a more innovative and impactful future.

a person sitting on the floor having drawn lots of interesting pictures with post-its and other work things around them

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