Comfortable seating, natural light and the absence of noise are the most crucial factors in encouraging creative thought, according to a study released today.
The report, carried out by Land Rover with organisational psychologist Sir Cary Cooper and the Institute of Directors, questioned over 900 global CEOs, directors and high-level managers to assess the optimum environment for inspiring creative ideas.
It found that 84% of business leaders believe their environment is important for enabling creative thought. Beyond the top 3 physical factors, respondents listed fresh air (23%), a feeling of space (18%) and natural materials (wood, leather etc.) (5%) as being vital for a creative environment, whilst being in comfort (64%), having time to think (61%) and not feeling stressed (41%) were seen as the required psychological conditions for having the best ideas.
In line with these findings, the home was reported to be the most effective place for being creative (48%) – away from the stress and distraction of the office – while one in five Executives (18%) said they have their best ideas in the car.
For those who are working in the car, the most common activity is creative thought (40%), as they use the respite of a journey to relax and reflect inwardly.
“The findings of this study suggest that cars present an opportunity for both the right psychological and the right physical conditions for creativity,” says Sir Cary Cooper. “Creative thoughts will often come to us at a time when we least expect them – when we are relaxed or not thinking about a problem. Experiments have shown that when dopamine is released into our brains from habitual or instinctive distractions, such as driving a car, we are more able to allow our brains to be creative.”
Almost one in ten Executives questioned revealed that they spent more than 25% of their working week in the car. In developing its luxury Range Rover vehicles – often driven or used by senior executives – Land Rover has worked hard to perfect the environment for both extended working and thinking time. Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer, explains how the design team have designed into Range Rover an environment that is conducive to fostering creative thought:
“We designed an interior for the Range Rover that reflects the needs of our customers: so there is an order and visual logic – an interior architecture that promotes calm and serenity, and which creates that sense of elevation Range Rover is renowned for; something that just feels right. At waist level, a feeling of being cocooned within the car – away from the rush and noise of the outside world – is juxtaposed with a connection to this world through its vast panoramic roof – providing as much natural light as possible.”
Land Rover’s study shows that catching up on emails is the second most popular business activity in the car (39%) followed by working on urgent tasks (34%). “Email overload is the biggest cause of productivity damage for the UK workforce,” says Cary. “Perhaps those Executives who are using their time in the car to work on emails might find benefits using the time and environment for reflection and thought instead.”
With 45 years of experience developing the Range Rover, Land Rover has learnt a lot about the people who drive or travel in its most luxurious models. Dr Paul Herriotts, Land Rover’s Technical Specialist in Ergonomics, explains how the environment is build from the ground up, around the customer:
“Land Rover caters for a diverse base of customers from over 170 countries. Knowing our customers inside out – their shapes, sizes and capabilities – is key to being able to build a car that suits their needs. The Range Rover, as the pinnacle of Land Rover luxury and design, is the vehicle that offers the ultimate in adjustability. It needs to be a vehicle which is as supremely comfortable for a tall, young male occupant as it is a short, older female. We aim to create a safe haven for customers which they can adjust to create their own perfect personal environment, whether that be for work, rest or play.”
With the working world demanding ever-longer hours, it is clear that there is a need for us to adapt to our various working environments if we are to get the best from both ourselves and others, as Sir Cary explains:
“Over time, it’s not just our relationships with work that have changed but the places and spaces in which we conduct our work that have evolved. This ranges from production line style offices, to open plan spaces, to the increase in coffee shops with wireless technology which free employees from cubicle offices and offer more flexible working. It is the latter, flexible working options, which continues to be required to fit with employees’ work-life integration.”
This flexibility to work from almost any location continues to increase in line with developments in technology, with connectivity being a key driver. The 3G connectivity of the InControl system seen in Range Rover is just one example of this in action.
For Cary Cooper, the key learning of the study is that, wherever Executives choose to do their work, for them to truly flourish it is vital that their surroundings are conducive to creative thought. As he explains:
“It is evident from the results of this research that the workplace environment is essential for enabling creative thought and we know that the relationship between creativity and increased productivity is very closely linked. Therefore organisations – and employees – should be doing everything they can to provide or find these creative environments in which to work. “