What Neuroscience is Telling Us about Designing for Creativity and Innovation

What Neuroscience is Telling Us about Designing for Creativity and Innovation

“It seems two very different behaviors optimize creative thinking for innovation processes…If we never rest, can’t focus, or don’t work with each other, we miss out on finding new ideas and fail to execute them.”


This new paper from Haworth gets at the brain science behind creativity and innovation. Though the terms are often used in close proximity or even interchangeably, they are completely different. Importantly, the kind of physical environment that supports one, is all wrong for the other.

Key takeaways:

  • There’s a sweet spot that’s ‘just right’ for creativity to flourish. It’s where distractions, stress, and emotions are not high enough to sabotage our ability to focus, but not so low that we’re bored.
  • Innovation occurs when people create together. It requires both group focus and periods of socializing.
  • Serendipitous interactions—particularly among people with diverse backgrounds—fuel innovation, but ‘protected areas’ where teams can feel safe amongst themselves are important too.

  • A supportive work culture is equally, if not more important than the physical environment. People need to be psychologically empowered to move between spaces as they choose. They need to feel valued, appreciated, and supported by their colleagues and by leadership. They need to feel psychologically safe to stare out the window, take a walk, share what they know, offer a different point of view, or fail.


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