The Ideal Creative Workspace

Jonah Lehrer suggests that the ideal creative workplace is “a room with blue walls that feels very far away and is filled with references to foreign countries”. Why would these three conditions be conducive to creativity?

Colours can influence how we think (in one experiment, red backgrounds were found to make participants more accurate, while blue backgrounds drew out creativity).

The linkage of red and accuracy makes some intuitive sense, since people tend to associate red (stop signs, the color of blood, etc.) with danger and caution. But why would blue make us more creative? […] It turns out moments of creative insight are best achieved when people are in a relaxed, peaceful state of mind.

Psychological distance (thinking something is further away) makes us more likely to solve difficult problems creatively.

According to [construal level theory (CLT)], psychological distance affects the way we mentally represent things, so that distant things are represented in a relatively abstract way while psychologically near things seem more concrete. […] Abstract thinking makes it easier for people to form surprising connections between seemingly unrelated concepts.

Living abroad increases creativity (previously).

First, living abroad can allow individuals access to a greater number of novel ideas and concepts, which can then act as inputs for the creative process. Second, living abroad may allow people to approach problems from different perspectives. […] Third, experiences in foreign cultures can increase the psychological readiness to accept and recruit ideas from unfamiliar sources, thus facilitating the processes of unconscious idea recombination.



2 responses to “The Ideal Creative Workspace”

  1. Interestingly, I just returned from an eleven-day stint in a field, where we helped host a major folk festival. I am always at my most creative there, and no wonder, as it fits the three criteria perfectly: remote, more blue sky than usual, and formed of a hodgepodge of people from varying communities and value systems.

    It would be psychologically perfect if perhaps the ideal workplace is actually not the room, but the public, open commonspace or town square.

  2. I like this idea, and fully expect this to be the case.

    I hadn’t considered it, however.

    Is this why the banks of the Seine abound with artists who could much easier take a photo of the vista home and paint in the comfort of their own home? I expect so.