Creativity vs Productivity: What’s More Important?

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One of the biggest trends today in corporate America is the open office space. More and more people love the idea of a communal workspace that allows for the building of relationships, camaraderie, and creativity with new ideas. And a nice plus is that they save money (like a ton of money). Even while the trend of these open office plans continues to increase, study after study is revealing that they don’t really work. So why are they picking up steam?


What you’re witnessing here is the age-old battle between productivity and creativity. Both need environments to thrive, and they pretty much the opposite things to work. Productivity is about all being effective. Distractions are removed, interactions are reduced, and walls go up (literally). The effective workspace uses either cubicles or office, or a hybrid of both. The whole point is to get through every task quickly and quietly.


Creativity, however, happens with distractions, which are usually called inspirations. So the walls come down, and the couches come out. The whole workplace is dependent upon interactions for work to happen. Unlike productivity, creativity is born out of a mess; the wilder the idea, the bigger the mess that gave birth to it usually is.


Which is more important?


The typical business owner would put stress on productivity. After all, you have to make money, and the faster a task is finished, the more money you can make. On the other side, young startups put a lot of focus on creativity, which makes sense. They are trying to create new ideas, and new ideas lead to money, which also good. However, a strictly productive workspace will burn out your employees, which will lose you both time and money. A creative place will remove many of the forms of the regiment formed by productivity, making employees so lax that complete any task they don’t want to do will be near impossible, also costing time and money. So how do you know which one to focus on more?


The answer is different for every business, but if you are starting a business, you really need both. 80 new companies were launched every hour in 2016, so you something to set you apart. So here are our two recommended ratios:


Productive Creativity (60% Creativity, 40% Productivity)


This is a perfect mix for businesses in the creative and innovation industries. Your work is fueled by creativity but is grounded in productivity. A workspace build around this allows for occasional distractions and interactions, but not at the cost of a project or task. Projects will be completed, but not at the cost of coming up with the new ideas that make you different. Your employees will thank you, build strong relationships and have solid work.


How to make this happen:


Build teams around projects. This will lead to more ideas and more interactions between employees.


Cushion your deadlines. Make sure that you make your deadlines final, but consider time for your employees to interact with each other.


Bring in inspiration from outside. Bring in art, posters, and things that make your team stop and think. This will increase the number of ideas created.


Have good staff meetings. This is the tricky one because most of us hate staff meetings. Why? Because they are so boring! Instead of using your staff meetings for things that can be communicated in emails, use them for new ideas, solving problems (which is different from announcing solutions).


Have recreational staff events. Staff events will build camaraderie, just don’t make them mandatory, because no one likes mandatory fun. Make sure to also have staff events that are not related to work.


Creative Productivity (70% Productivity, 30% Creativity)


This is the best combination for most other businesses. You have to get the job done, but considering new ideas will help keep you from fading into obscurity. There will be few distractions, but it won’t be a soul-sucking workspace, which is always a plus. Projects will be completed, and your clients will enjoy the “little something extra” that sets you apart. Your employees will thank you as well for keeping work from being totally monotonous.


How to make this happen:


Use an open door policy. Offices and cubicles will allow for your hard-working employees to continue working. However, having doors open will allow for interaction, which is huge.


Encourage the new ideas. Many businesses are scared of new ideas, and this is usually the death of them. You don’t have to stress for new ideas, but encourage ideas when they pop up. This will lead to more ideas.


Share ideas with the team. One of the best things you can do as a business leader is to show that you are thinking about the future and ways to grow. A key way to do this is to share ideas with your employees and ask for their opinion.


Relax your deadlines. This takes a gentle touch, but knowing that efficiency is a key focus in your business means that many people won’t ignore deadlines. However, somethings things happen that keep deadlines from being met. Make sure you show a little flexibility.



Either one of these combinations can help your business succeed, especially when implemented correctly. If you have any questions on how to do this in a proper context for your specific business, reach out to us here.

  • Courtney Rose

    This is an amazing post!

    July 8, 2015 Reply
    • admin

      Thank you! 🙂

      July 8, 2015 Reply

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