The Creative Space: 3 Steps to Cultivating Innovation in your Workplace

As children there are many things that capture our imaginations, but it’s safe to say that one stands above the rest. I’m talking about the one, the only, Disney World! To this day I still hold many fond memories of the magical feeling I first had walking through the main entrance and thinking I had been transported to a far-off land.

Of course, as adults we come to realize that behind the magic of Disney lies a fine-oiled machine that combines productivity and creativity in ways few companies have been able to achieve. So how did the big mouse create a culture where innovation and profit can thrive so seamlessly? The answer lies in what we at Legendary Coaching like to call the “Creative Space”.

I would like to suggest that all dimensions of a business or organization can be categorized into 3 spaces: the transactional, relational and creative. As the name would suggest the Transactional space comprises things like procedures, policies and all aspects involved with your financial bottom-line. In contrast the Relational Space encompasses your people, workplace culture and the customers you serve; your relationship capital. 

The problem is often these 2 spaces are in conflict with one another and constantly compete for resources in a company.  But what would it look like if these 2 spaces collaborated with one another? What if your HR and Finance departments did not feel threatened by each other, but worked together? The answer to that is the Creative Space. When the Transactional and Relational spaces come together you enter into an area where relationships are protected, innovation thrives and you make a whole lot of money along the way! Think of the creative space best demonstrated in the Apples, Googles and of course, Disneys of the world.

I witnessed this first hand during one of my childhood visits to Disney World. After meeting and talking with a very nice staff member at the park we were informed that our family had been selected to go behind the scenes of one of Disney’s newest rides. This new roller coaster simulated an adventure up the heart of Mount Everest where we the explorers had a close encounter with the Yeti. This Yeti was actually a gigantic robot that we were told would consume the amount of power of several city block in one day! I’m sorry if that made any environmentally conscious people cringe.

Now I am not endorsing or condemning that investment. However, I do believe there is something important in this that organizations can learn from. In this case Disney did not see the cost of this ride as competing with the customer experience and it’s this mindset that has permeated their culture and thus created a product and brand that people can’t wait to be apart of. Relationships and profitability both benefit; in other words the Creative Space is alive and well.

So how can you practically apply this in your workplace? Here are 3 steps to get started accessing the Creative Space:



1)      Learn to Ask Great Questions:

Curiosity is one of the greatest tools a leader can have. To often we dismiss good ideas before they have had a chance to blossom. Consider this example: Mike and Jim both want to use the last orange in the kitchen. Instinctively they jump to what they think is the most rational solution; cutting the orange in half. However, Mike only needed zest from the orange skin for a cake while Jim wanted a fresh glass of orange juice but now he can only fill up half. Did they need to split the orange? If they would have asked great questions before hand about each other’s intentions they could have discovered a win-win scenario. What are the win-win scenarios between your Transactional and Relational space you are missing? What questions could you ask to start discovering them?

2)      Build the Emotional Wisdom of your Team and Yourself:

Unhealthy conflict is often the culprit that blocks the Creative Space. Conflict is an unavoidable part of life; especially in the workplace. Investing in your team’s communication and conflict management skills will make all the difference in their efficiency, productivity and creativity. Not to mention everyone starts to love going to work. When people can passionately disagree with each other without taking it personally, good ideas become great ideas!

3)      Embrace an Abundance Mentality

When envisioning a goal, the majority of people will picture their desired outcome and then subsequently list off obstacles to said vision. From there they will weigh how feasible the goal is based on how “realistic” it is. The problem with this is that it conditions our brains to look at the glass half empty. The fear of risk or lack of resources has derailed many a leader’s ability to ask great questions. This mindset is a catalyst for conflict between the Relational and Transactional space. Instead train yourself to focus on why your goal or aspiration is possible and the future value it will bring. When you embrace an Abundance Mentality the desire to steward resources will not overpower your desire to invest in the relationships of your team and customers.

So what’s at risk to start making some changes in your workplace and access more creativity? Perhaps the better question is, what’s at risk not to?

I hope you found this article helpful. Look through our website for more leadership, conflict resolution and communication tools.

Ryan Smith

Director of Business Development  

michael walker