Why aren’t offices more like classrooms

My 8 year old daughter recently asked me what I’d been doing at work, and I showed her some pictures I’d take in the ‘War Room‘ being used for work in my organisation (unfortunately I can’t post the pics for commercial reasons). Her first comment was ‘Oh, that looks like my classroom at school’.

This got me thinking about the working environment in most corporate offices and how different it is from the environment in most modern classrooms. It struck me that there is a lot of good stuff happening in the classroom that we can learn from. In particular, the big contrast in creativity from the primary school room through to my university years and then into the commercial world is striking and is the topic of one of my favourite TED talks by by Ken Robinson on how schools kill creativity.

Here are a few thoughts on how we can create a more creative workplace using concepts from the classroom:

Stick things on the walls to share, promote discussion, help us remember.

postitsIn the war room example, by putting things on the wall, inviting people to come and see them and discussing things it aids communication and learning and promotes cross pollination of ideas and possibilities. It is also a good visual reminder to help us remember things and create connections which aren’t going to happen, no matter how nice your work is, if its stored in a local drive somewhere.

It is amazing how engaged people became when they could see everything laid out in front off them, and can quickly jump from one area to another making connections and mental leaps just not possible when looking at a powerpoint deck on screen or in a written document.

Play

An important part of our early education is the freedom to explore and experiment through play, it helps increase self-esteem, self-awareness and self-respect, it encourages imagination, creativity and social interaction. It also provides a safe environment for risk taking, challenge, problem solving and dealing with new situations.

“You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation” – Plato

All of the above are benefits of play that have use in our adult working lives so why don’t we do more of this, clearly this doesn’t mean we should all roll up our sleeves and get in a real sandpit, but techniques such as Lego Serious play and other workshop facilitation provides opportunities for play in a work context.

ping pongAnd we all know that a key part of the creative workspace for startups is a ping pong table!

Show and Tell

If you do something interesting, useful or just cool you should share it and encourage others to do the same. Creating a culture of sharing information can be hugely beneficial and reduce waste and reinventing the wheel purely because people aren’t aware of what others are doing.

In large companies were it isn’t practical to get everyone together why not video your sessions and put them all in one place so anyone can view them in the future – it doesn’t have to be done professionally, everyone has a phone capable of reasonable quality video now days. Pivotal Labs Tech talks are a great example of this kind of practice.

I think there are many ways we can learn from the classroom and make a more creative workplace, why not have a look around next time you are at a parents evening or visit a school or even just think back to your own education for inspiration!

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