Novels such as To the Lighthouse and Orlando cemented Virginia Woolf’s reputation as an innovator and one of the leading literary novelists of her time. Woolf’s non-fiction also continues to resonate many decades on. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” she asserted in A Room of One’s Own.
Although Woolf was referring largely to the social, cultural and financial obstacles that faced females in the early part of the 20th century, securing a ‘room of one’s own’ – a safe place in which to reflect, dream and create – remains as challenging and universal today, for both genders. Especially so in business, where creating ‘space’ within organisations for people to connect and ideas to gestate is seen as critical for innovation and future growth.
Predictably, many companies opt to tackle the physical ‘space’ first. “An office doesn’t dictate creativity, of course,” writes CNN’s Todd Leopold in a lengthy exploration of workplace design and creativity. “Generating ideas, cross-fertilising those concepts with others … they’re all part of a complex dance of individual capabilities, group dynamics and corporate cultures. But key to its success is an atmosphere, both physical and psychological, that allows people to be at their sharpest.” The challenges for organisations in attempting this change are both financial – the investment required – and practical. “It’s not like most workers do the same thing all the time, or that each department is one-size-fits-all,” Leopold says.
Of course, individuals are also responsible for setting the habits and environmental cues that foster or derail creativity, adds time management life coach, Elizabeth Grace Saunders. She lists four key elements – reminders, tools, distractions and surroundings – that people need to address in order to create a backdrop for success. “For your most important creative work, having an environment that you relish spending time in makes starting on hard mental work much easier,” Saunders says. “When you leverage the fact that you have emotional and mental responses to specific places, you can dramatically increase your productivity.”