Fostering innovation through serendipity and solitude.
There is never one best way to do anything. Innovation and creation are born from myriad circumstances and environments. That’s why we need workplaces that accommodate a wide range of styles and preferences. A diverse and inclusive office is essential if your business is to grow, progress, or innovate. For the sake of brevity and clarity, let’s oversimplify the types of employees we have, so we can take a look at how best to catalyze their ability to prosper and create.
While people fall all over the spectrum from introversion to extroversion, most trend toward one or the other. One clear way of assessing an employees place on the scale is to ask where they draw their energy from. Introverts tend to recharge and gain energy in quiet, undistracting places. Extroverts gain momentum and speed in a group. These bees enjoy the buzz of the social hive atmosphere, while the introverted butterflies seek the solitude of the cocoon.
When you are creating or redesigning your workplace, you would do well to consider the office to be a large, strong oak tree. The break room, the lounge, the restroom area, these are all parts of the trunk that holds the whole thing together. They are places where people feel part of the team. Branching off the trunk, we have the thick and sturdy arms of the oak.
A well designed office environment has branches tailor-made to hold cocoons and hives, because both your bees and your butterflies need space to spread their wings.
When we’re thinking of our butterflies we are imagining them in their cocoon. It’s a safe, quiet place that is free of distractions. In their cocoons, butterflies gain their strength. They begin to shape the gorgeous creature that will soon bust loose into the air. They grow in a world of quiet solitude.
Your office butterflies need walled off spaces with doors or quiet shared spaces with others who respect and share their need for privacy. We would not have Mac/Apple computers if Steve Wozniak had not been allowed to tinker away in his secluded Hewlett Packard office.
In order for introverts to invent, design, or create –– basically in order for them to innovate for your business –– they need their cocoons. Deep thinking is a state of mind that many people find themselves in when the pieces of the innovation puzzle start to come together. In order to get into the flow-state of deep thinking, introverts need time alone without the distractions that come naturally in a busy, thriving office.
If your butterfly employee is only a few moments of solitude away from a breakthrough idea, why in the world would we put that butterfly in a noisy, open space full of distractions?
Many offices, especially in sales and customer service businesses, will attract more bees than butterflies. Hives are much larger and heavier. They can be home to thousands who are all working happily together in a shared space. They take up more space in our office tree, and they hang heavier on the branches.
Bees need their hives in order to gain energy. It is through interacting with others that they recharge. Outside distractions and noise are not as much of an issue for bees because they are not as sensitive to these distractions as butterflies.
Your office bees need each other to grow and progress. There is a frenetic buzz to their environment. These busy creatures do not create or innovate in solitude. Instead, they thrive through serendipitous interactions with others. And it doesn’t have to be other bees. Bees can create those breakthrough moments when they see what the butterflies are up to, or when they are working alongside another bee.
Bees innovate through collaboration, teamwork, and random, serendipitous interactions that take place during their busy, social days. Bees get their best ideas when they are talking with others or sometimes even when they are presenting their thoughts to others. They are more likely than butterflies to think out loud and to innovate on the fly.
Let Them Fly
Fostering innovation comes down to letting your butterflies and your bees spread their wings and fly. In order to create a healthy environment for all our employees, we need to consider the elements and places that will help them thrive.
Your office might be filled with a disproportionate number of bees to butterflies, but that does not make either one less valuable. What can you do to grow your oak tree office?
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