What does the future of work look like? In office or remote? Open floor plans, closed doors or coworking spaces? Will we or won’t we have “you’re on mute” permanently ingrained in our brains? There are compelling arguments for why we’ll never need an office again and, contrarily, why all great companies will eventually return to the office for good.
One thing is for sure: on the tail end of this 15-month unplanned work-from-home experiment, our collective creativity has taken a beating. But on a brighter note, a creative resurgence is nearing.
As for GS&F, our future will be some version of a hybrid workforce. That said, we’re giddy about the fact that we’ve safely reopened our Nashville office and can once again high five with our actual hands, take a break to pet a favorite office pup, and smell the glorious microwaved leftovers of our favorite pescatarian coworkers. More importantly, with a 30-day soft opening under our belt we’re all starting to feel the magic coming back—the hair-raising, goosebump-inducing feeling that comes from rallying around the creation of new ideas.
To mark this transition, we’re sharing our four most prized in-person creative conditions that we’re welcoming back with our open IRL hearts and minds.
Try casually bumping into someone on a Zoom call. It’s virtually impossible. In the office, though, a walk past a coworker’s desk can yield a serendipitous unlocking of thought. And there’s a reason for that. When we use our conscious minds to solve problems we tend to think linearly or in a straight path that makes sense logically, connecting dots that come one after another. But the ideas that stop people in their tracks most often come from lateral thinking, which doesn’t follow a straight line and instead requires an illogical leap in thought. So the next time you’re knee deep in critical thinking, take the long way back to your desk or intentionally have an off-the-wall water cooler conversation. It just might be the divergence that springs you into a breakthrough.
One unforeseen 2020 side effect that’s been a death sentence for creativity is the inability to make a decision. There’s nothing like a life-changing global pandemic to make you question everything, from whether shoes are necessary right down to the meaning of life and your very existence. And while asking the right questions is a vital part of problem solving, indecision can be downright suffocating to the emergence of new ideas. But when we’re in the physical presence of big thinkers who we trust and admire, our inhibitions are quieted and we can once again begin to go with our instincts. When we haphazardly blurt out something ridiculous and someone else in the same room has a sparkle in their eye or starts feverishly writing in their notebook, that’s a whisper to our creative soul that tells us to lean into our own craziness. Then our hunches grow into convictions and the best ideas make it into existence.
Sharing the depths of your most intimate hopes and shameful fears isn’t just for Brené Brown groupies; it’s vital to the creative process and a rare gift to our teammates. In her Netflix special, A Call to Courage, Brown urges us to choose courage over comfort especially in times of fear and uncertainty. And what’s not scary about creating new ideas that no one has ever seen before? However, one of the most beautiful things about courage is that it’s highly contagious and spreads like wildfire, especially when we experience it live in the flesh. It’s far harder to make the choice to expose our true selves when we’ve got to schedule a Zoom call and wade through bumpy Wi-Fi connections to do it. Yet it’s through this unmasking that our souls find a way into our work, and it’s this raw emotion that separates great advertising from the ads that people pay to avoid.
For many of us, if the last year had a dominant feeling it’s one of being stuck. Nothing kills the creative vibes quite like days, weeks and months riddled with tech fumbles like “we can’t see your screen” and calendar woes like “I have a hard stop.” Creativity thrives in an environment conducive for a snowball effect. A simple doodle on a white board that spurs an inappropriate joke that just so happens to connect to a product or category that could use a good dose of humor is exactly what gets brands noticed and has products jumping off the shelves. It’s when these unexpected collisions build on each other that great ideas are born and the magical feeling of creating for a living returns.
Whether your company’s plans are to keep it dispersed or circle the in-office wagons, if we want to emerge victoriously in this new world where we must do far more with far less we have to notice and intentionally create an environment for innovation to happen—even if that means you have to put on actual pants, board a plane, or awkwardly relearn to look directly into the eyes of another human as we bravely birth new ideas together.