Top 10 Characteristics of Highly Creative and Innovative Environments

It’s no secret that the best companies in the world have the best creative talent.

They’ve perfected the formula for nurturing and breeding not only creatives, but the creative process that leads to cutting-edge innovative products and services.

I’ve provided my top 10 characteristics that define highly creative and innovative environments, which will guide you whether you’re trying to hire creatives, make your existing employees more creative, and/or want to develop innovative products and services…


10. Minimal Distractions and Directed Praise

We commonly refer to this as “shit umbrellas” and “credit funnels,” which means that the best creative environments have minimal distractions, and creative teams receive the bulk of the accolades for their work. Do you think creativity and innovation is born in all-day meetings? Uh, no. Only requireanimated - meetings 2-3 meetings per week and let them focus on their work the rest of the week. Does creativity flourish under a micromanager? Nope. Just provide the right resources, info, and environment and get out of their way!

And as a leader, it’s critical to give your team all the credit while shielding them from blame. This is the single biggest thing that creatives desire most and require in order to deliver amazing work each and every day. They typically don’t care about money or fame, but receiving praise during a leadership meeting will go a long way to establishing loyalty, trust, and continued success. 


9. Clear + Consistent Communications



8. Continuous Learning

It’s extremely difficult to innovate when you haven’t learned anything new. Continuous learning and coaching are core fundamentals for highly creative environments.

img - quote einstein passionately curious



7. Creative Direction

Creative freedom – to a certain extent – is a beautiful thing and opens up unlimited possibilities. But if creative teams are left without any guidelines, the results can be… well, disastrous. The same for non-creatives, who may not be inspired by a blank canvas. This is why Product & Experience Visions are standard in creative environments to not only focus the team, but to also inspire them!

A Vision is an idealized view of the experience that users will have with whatever it is you’re creating (e.g. digital product, experience, etc.), where it captures the critical elements and articulates the “winning idea” by focusing on the experience and downplaying the technology required to build it.

You can create the Vision by answering these targeted questions:

  • What type of experience do you want your customers or users to have?
  • How will it support them in achieving their goals?
  • How will it help your company to achieve its goals and build your brand?


6. Play Time, All the Time

Not only does an abundance of play in childhood create smarter and happier adults, it can also keep us smarter at any age. Recent studies – by ScienceDaily and – show that play in adulthood can add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you. 

img - adult play

Play is an extraordinary way to make work more productive, but it’s also a critical requirement for innovative teams to spark their creative juices to continuously churn out exciting ideas. 


5. Established Creative Process

The best creative environments have established creative processes to guide their teams through creative projects. I recommend that you define your creative process and display it on the wall (and/or online) so everyone can see it.

Develop Your Own Creative Process
Develop a creative process that works best for your team, where you need to maximize their unique skills while minimizing their deficiencies. Additionally, you want to make sure the creative process is fluid and flexible enough to give you adequate time to be creative, while still being structured enough to guide you through the creative doldrums.

An effective process should allow for serendipity and flashes of brilliance, along with long periods of mental chaff. It can be a rigid step-by-step approach, or it might be a loose progression of stages you go through, or it could be anything in between. Always allow for slight modifications to function in other mediums, with almost any style, and within a myriad of other constraints that might be placed upon your team.

Large Teams/Companies Require a Creative Process Framework
For large teams/companies that utilize multiple creative processes, I recommend that you develop a Creative Process framework that tells your team members when to use which process and how.


4. Empowered Creative Teams

World-renowned creative teams have unique autonomy to make decisions about their work. So let your teams choose with whom to work, how they will work, and when they’ll work. Empowering them with control over these decisions will allow creativity and productivity to flourish. If you’re a micromanager, then I suggest you take a permanent vacation.


3. Freedom to Fail

You should expect your team to succeed; however, it’s critical that you embrace failure along the way because they’re opportunities for growth. In fact, companies like Google celebrate failures just as much as they do success. Their motto is that greatness comes out of attempting big things and failing — and then learning from it, trying again and succeeding.

img - quote creativity failure


2. Collaborative + Flexible Environment

Creativity and innovation don’t work well in traditional environments that focus on competition amongst isolated workers. The best creative environments have physical environments and processes (mentioned above) that promote and enable collaboration, while also providing space and time for individual thought. Creatives, by and large, work best when collaboration drives the foundation of their work. However, they also need quiet time to process the information, interactions, and research in order to successfully design and develop solutions.

img - creative collaboration


1. Servant Leaders

Creativity and innovation requires unique leadership. Servant leaders are selfless and humble, value diverse opinions, team-oriented, and focus on encouraging and developing leaders (versus being a task-driver). They always shelter their teams from blame and consistently give credit to their teams instead of themselves. They are rare individuals, but only because the business world has falsely promoted the wrong values for so long. Servant leadership is required to ensure all the other principles above are respected and valued, and this in turn will make any organization truly dynamic and innovative.

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