Written by Jane Qiu, co-founder of kintell. Jane's focus is on community development, team building, and strategy.
In a startup, creativity is currency. When you're running a business on a dream and the smell of an oily rag, creativity is your biggest leverage. A creative, motivated group of people laser-focused on one problem can achieve a huge amount.
Creating a space that not only allows for but even drives creativity can be hugely powerful. But how do you nurture creativity in the same way when you and your team are working from home, as most of us will be for the foreseeable future?
Luckily, a little can go a long way.
What is creativity? Believe it or not, those "light bulb moments" are a result of your brain building new connections between the information it already has--things you may already know from your childhood, work experience, studies, hobbies, etc.--to connect them together in a new way.
When it comes to work, creativity is about coming up with new ideas that are useful. But to find a useful idea, you have to come up with hundreds of new ideas or connections first. Your environment significantly impacts the number of connections you make and how high-quality those connections are. So how do you create an environment at home that nurtures that creativity?
1. Give it space. Literally.
Considering that mind space is essential to creativity, it should perhaps come as no surprise that physical space is just as useful. In a 2007 study for the Journal of Consumer Research, Meyers‐Levy and Zhu found that ceiling height impacts the way that our brains process information. Higher ceilings may prime thoughts related to freedom, which helps the brain sort through multiple pieces of data freely to find commonalities or new connections between them--in other words, creativity!
If you're lucky enough to have high ceilings, then awesome. If you don't have them in your home office, you can still find spaces with more of a sense of freedom for when you're brainstorming. Is there a park nearby you could go to or a co-working space that has a room with higher ceilings you could rent out when needed?
2. Incorporate colors.
There's a huge amount of research into how color affects our brain, with one study suggesting that the color red can hinder creativity while blue hues can encourage people to explore and try new things. Another study showed how colored accent lighting can be more powerful than white accent lighting for creativity.
Incorporating color into your space can be incredibly effective in nurturing creativity (although maybe avoid having too many walls of bright red). It doesn't have to be huge--even just colorful pillows or a throw can help--but having color in your space can prompt new thinking and stimulate your brain in a different way.
3. Have a meditation corner.
Think of intensive creative activity like a sprint; you're an Olympian of the mind. You have to perform at a high level, but it's virtually impossible to do that for 10 hours straight. Most of us only have the mental stamina to do this for an hour or two max. Much like an athlete needs to rest their body, entrepreneurs and creatives need to rest their minds.
One of the most-researched ways to do that is short-form meditation. One 2014 study found that short-term meditation, 30 minutes per day for seven days, actually improved creativity performance. When it comes to your home office, why not have a meditation corner or chair that you can retreat to and switch into meditation mode?
4. Bring the outdoors in.
We know how good plants are for the air in your home, but did you know that they're also good for your brain? One global study found that people who worked in environments with natural elements such as plants not only reported a higher level of well-being, they were also 15 percent more creative overall.
So if you're working from home either by choice or by government mandate, try keeping a fern by your desk, or conduct your brainstorming next to that monstera plant you've only just managed to keep alive.
Whatever methods you use to nurture your creativity while working from home, remember that you already have everything in your brain you need to come up with creative ideas. You just have to give yourself the best possible chance to let that brain of yours fly.